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A Science Odyssey Title 'Matters of the Heart' Title


A Science Theater Play

"Matters of the Heart" was written by Jon Lipsky and developed by the Museum of Science, Boston for A Science Odyssey.

"Matters of the Heart" is a fascinating drama about the effects of changes in medicine and technology on one twentieth-century family. This moving 20-minute play spans the century, the continent, and several lives, examining developments that have made transplant surgery a reality and a second chance for thousands of people each year.

The script and stage directions for the play can be printed from the screen and used in your classroom, club, church, library or home. The play can be performed by as few as three actors in any quiet space in your organization, or with as many as seven or more actors using different sets and costumes.

The educational goals of the play, some helpful references, and a few frequently asked questions are also included. These may serve as a springboard for engaging the actors and audience in further discussion about the topics of medicine, technology, transplant surgery, and more. Because the play deals with sensitive topics, WGBH suggests it for an audience of fifth graders and above.

When performing "Matters of the Heart", please include the following language on any related signage (e.g., programs, invitations, fliers, etc.):

"Matters of the Heart" was written by Jon Lipsky and developed as part of the national A Science Odyssey™ Project. Major funding for A Science Odyssey is provided by the National Science Foundation. Corporate sponsorship is provided by IBM. IBM is a registered trademark of IBM Corporation. Additional funding comes from public television viewers, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and Becton Dickinson and Company. A Science Odyssey is a production of WGBH Boston. Educational Goals
The main goal of this play, "Matters of the Heart", is to inspire audiences to look more deeply at the discoveries, inventions, and innovations that have transformed our society over the last 100 years. While it centers on a medical 'miracle' -- organ transplants -- the story depicts a much wider range of phenomena. Indeed, its' characteristic litany of necessary scientific and technological developments -- "without the heart/lung machine, a Japanese fungus, a fax machine, psychotherapy, the computer chip, the combustion engine . . . this story would never have happened" -- could be applied, with different specifics, to any number of important changes in our lives. In the end, it is the range of innovations and not the details that, hopefully, will move audiences to a greater curiosity about our remarkable era.

With this goal in mind, the play was designed to whet audiences' appetite for the more in-depth exploration of the twentieth century that is found in the PBS Project, A Science Odyssey. Details of discoveries and inventions have been left out in an attempt to capture viewers' imaginations with a fast-paced story, an emotional roller coaster ride through a technological and ethical terra nova. In the end, we hope that audiences will come away saying: "Wow! -- look at all the amazing breakthroughs we take for granted in modern life! How did all those things come about?" Luckily, the answer to that question can be found in the wide diversity of educational materials that make up A Science Odyssey.

Style of the Play
This play is a dramatic narrative, often spoken out to the audience. It is also often a rhythmic collage of voices.

Suggested Props

  • large world map
  • poncho
  • beeper
  • surgical masks
  • small medicine cups
  • Book (Carl Jung's Man and His Symbols)
  • lab coat
  • stethoscope
  • manila folders
  • notebook
  • glasses
  • tallis, a Jewish prayer shawl
  • yarmulkah
  • plane ticket
  • duffel bag
  • powdered milk
  • bottled water
  • instant soup package
  • photo album

"Matters of the Heart" -- Complete Script

Cast of Characters

  • Rosie, a thirty-year-old woman
  • Joey, a twenty-year-old man
  • David, a forty-year-old man
  • Jorge, great-grandfather of Rosie as a young man
  • Doctor, Rosie and David's physician
  • Therapist, Rosie's counselor
  • Rabbi, officiates at marriage and death

Note: Joey and David can be played by the same actor.

Jorge, Doctor and Rabbi can be played by the same actor.

Characters are defined by a prop or costume piece.



ROSIE

To the audience

This all started in another time in a world far away. There was a young woman with a sick daughter in a small hut on a dirt floor. And a young man on a straw mat with a large map and a dream.

JORGE

Marta, mi corazón, don't cry. Marta, I have a plan. Next month the canal opens. The date has been set. I carried the telegraph message from Señor myself. Every ship that used to go around Tierre Del Fuego will be passing through Panama. We can get to New York in only eight days! Think of it, Marta -- New York! -- with gas lights and streetcars and skyscrapers twenty stories high. In New York we can find someone to help Rosalita. They have invented something called an x-ray that can look right through you. Maybe they can look right through Rosalita to see what's wrong with her heart.

Yes, yes. I have a way to pay for our passage. I have something better than a third class ticket. Carlos, in the telegraph office, showed me how to work the wireless, how to fix the wireless, how to send messages through the air. Every big ship passing through Panama will have a wireless and by the time they get to Panama half of them will be broken. And I'll repair them. And it will not stop there. The telegraph is a thing of the past. The wireless will reach to the far corners of the world. And on that wireless . . .

JORGE & ROSIE

Simultaneously, Rosie begins after Jorge

I will search the world for someone who can make the heart of Rosalita well again.

ROSIE

To the audience

The x-ray, the wireless, the Panama Canal; without these this story would never have happened.

Jorge folds up his map

JORGE

What luck we have to be living in these times.

ROSIE

"What luck, what luck," my great-grandfather always said.

JORGE

And with Rosalita well again, I swear, mi corazón, we will return to Costa Rica when the world is new.

ROSIE

"When the world is new." This is the story my mother always told of how my grandmother first came to America.

She looks back, Jorge is gone

See, my mother had a bad heart, and my grandmother before her, and I had a bad heart and I was waiting to die. Actually, I was waiting for my beeper to ring. 'Cause those were my only two choices. Either my beeper would ring or I would die. My mother never had this choice, nor her mother before her. They didn't even have beepers.

Pause. She looks at her beeper. Picks it up.

Lucky me. Without the beeper, this story would not have happened.

Joey appears

JOEY

I look out over the cliff. I check the wind once more. I check my rig once more. I ask myself one more time, Why am I throwing myself off a fifty foot cliff? And the answer is obvious. Hey, Mom, get the Polaroid!

He freezes in an image of flying

ROSIE

The hang glider.

JOEY

Higher and higher --

ROSIE

Without the hang glider . . .

JOEY

Higher and higher --

ROSIE

. . . this story would not have happened.

JOEY

Flying

Higher and higher. Up! Up! Up! You're really soaring now.

ROSIE

This is a purely twentieth-century story.

JOEY & ROSIE

Rosie repeating

Ludwig Beethoven, Isaac Newton, Alexander the Great never did this!

ROSIE

And I am purely twentieth-century phenomenon.

JOEY

This is the life! This is the life! This is the --

Joey crashes

DOCTOR

Doctor enters in the midst of a tense operation

Where's that CAT scan. Where's that CAT scan! We're losing him. We've gotta get more drainage. There's still too much pressure on his brain. I'm going in again. Come on, come on, come on . . .

JOEY

Lying on a table

So I'm lying there. Hooked up to monitors.

ROSIE

Without the heart monitor.

JOEY

Unfeeling. Unconscious.

ROSIE

Without the respirator.

JOEY

Unaware even of these intricate machines.

ROSIE

Without the EEG.

JOEY

And my folks stand over me -- they come every day -- waiting, waiting for me to wake up.

ROSIE

Waiting and waiting.

JOEY

'Cause I look okay. My cheeks are pink. I breathe easily.

ROSIE

Waiting and waiting.

JOEY

But the flat line from my brain stem has signed my death warrant.

DOCTOR

To the audience

This is the question you hate to ask. Some doctors won't even do it. The question didn't even exist when I went to med school.

JOEY

They ask for my heart, my lungs, my liver, my kidneys, my eyes. This is the hardest part for my mom. When they ask for my eyes.

ROSIE

To the audience

But if they don't ask those questions, this story never happens.

JOEY

My father shakes his head: out of the question. But my mother sighs, As mother "Harold . . . dear . . . Maybe some good can come of this."

DOCTOR

To the audience

How do you decide that someone's dead? When his breathing stops? When his heart stops? When his brain stops? When you pour ice water in his ear and there's no reflex reaction?

ROSIE

But if you don't answer those questions, this story never happens.

DOCTOR

As if to a committee

Six months ago we made a tentative decision who would be on the top of the waiting list for a new heart. We laid out our priorities like this:

Throwing files down

Case number 52 is real sick and could die soon, but we have to stabilize him before we give him a transplant. Case number 12 is younger, she'll use the heart longer, but she's stable and probably could wait awhile. Twenty-four would be perfect, but he's a kid who showed up recently in the emergency room with fresh track marks on his arm. Case number 49's a popular TV star who's offered to give us lots of dough if we break our rules and give him special treatment. But of course that's out of the question. Everybody gets the same shot. And then there's 33, a history teacher, who's got a history of heart disease going back three generations. She's strong, committed, and desperately in need. If her blood type and heart size match up, we're going with number 33.

Looking through records

It's a match.

To Rosie

Ring her beeper.

The beeper rings. And rings. And rings

ROSIE

Oh my gosh! The next thing I know there's an ambulance at my door. And I'm signing my will and packing my toothbrush.

JOEY

And two-hundred miles away a helicopter lifts off with a heart and a liver packed in picnic coolers.

ROSIE

Thank goodness for the combustion engine!

JOEY

The propeller!

ROSIE

The superhighway!

JOEY

The radar screen!

ROSIE

The picnic cooler!

Rosie closes her eyes, breathes deeply

JOEY

Whispering, in Rosie's ear

It will only take about four hours, less time then it took to harvest my body parts. That's what they call it: "harvesting" the body parts. They put you in a sleep so deep you may stop breathing. The machine keeps your blood circulating, feeds you oxygen, lowers your body temperature twenty degrees. The blood vessels are the hardest part. They have special tiny sutures to reconnect them. And then, with warm blood, the new heart starts throbbing.

Heartbeat

Ta-Tum! Ta-Tum! Ta-Tum! Ta-Tum!

ROSIE

Rosie wakes up

The next thing I know there are colors all around me and I'm flying.

JOEY

Flying . . .

ROSIE

Flying with a young man through the air. Over Costa Rica, a place I've never been. And in the village square is my namesake, my Nana, Rosalita.

JOEY

Flying . . .

ROSIE

And I wave to her but she is so sad; she is sick at heart that she can't fly with me.

JOEY

Come up, come up . . . Up! Up! Up!

ROSIE

And the young man shouts, "come up, come up, come fly away!"

JOEY

Fly away home!

ROSIE

But Nana's too sad and old to fly, too heartsick, so she shouts, "come down, come down."

JOEY

Down?

ROSIE

And suddenly I feel these ropes around my wrists . . .

JOEY

Down?

ROSIE

. . . pulling me down towards the village.

JOEY

Down! Down!

ROSIE

And I try to break away but I can't break away and I start to fall down, down . . .

JOEY

. . . down . . . down . . .

ROSIE

And -- oh!

JOEY

Oh!

ROSIE

Suddenly I wake up from my dream in a hospital bed pulling tubes out of my arm.

Out! Out!

Pause


ROSIE

Exhausted

Oh! Whoever invented the I.V. and the catheter must have been a sadist.

Rosie puts on a surgical mask. The actor who played Joey changes into David and puts on a surgical mask. They both listen to the Doctor.

DOCTOR

Lecturing

Ladies and gentlemen, let me remind you your body has been invaded by the very thing keeping you alive.

ROSIE

Wearing a surgical mask

So I was sitting at a lecture on the transplant floor when a man walked in who seemed oddly familiar.

DOCTOR

Your new heart, your new kidney, your new liver is as dangerous to your body as any deadly microbe.

ROSIE

He had the most intense brown eyes.

DOCTOR

So your bodies naturally fight the foreign invader.

DAVID

For the first weeks after I got my liver all I saw were people's eyes.

DOCTOR

That is why the drugs we have prescribed must be taken without fail three hundred and sixty-five days a year.

DAVID

Everyone had to wear masks. Our defenses were so down even a common cold could kill us.

DOCTOR

What makes this all possible is Cyclosporin.

DAVID

And there was one pair of hazel eyes.

DOCTOR

A drug first discovered in a Japanese fungus.

ROSIE

I noticed him watching me at "the cocktail hour." That's what we called our little ritual on the transplant floor, "the cocktail hour."

DOCTOR

This drug makes it possible to suppress those cells in your body that would attack your transplant, leaving the rest of your defenses more or less intact.

ROSIE

We'd mix up our drugs like cocktails, a splash of steroids, a pinch of antibiotics, a couple of jiggers of Cyclosporin.

DOCTOR

Don't forget to take it.

ROSIE

The elixir of life!

DAVID

Raising his glass

As my father would say, "L'chaim! To life!"

ROSIE

To life! I'll drink to that.

They drink together

Why are you always staring at me?

DAVID

Because I think we're related.

ROSIE

Related? I-I don't think so.

DAVID

In a manner of speaking. We had our transplants on the same day.

ROSIE

The same day?

DAVID

The same night. Almost the same hour.

ROSIE

Oh.

DAVID

So, you see, there's a chance we could have the same donor. And my liver . . .

ROSIE

And my heart . . .

DAVID

Are "soulmates." You are, literally, flesh of my flesh.

THERAPIST

Rosie, let me reassure you. The heart is just a pump and the liver is just a filter. The belief that a transplanted heart, or a transplanted liver, could have any residual memories or characteristics of its original owner is simply an illusion, or a delusion, if it persists.

DAVID

What does he know? Rosie, aren't you overwhelmed with feelings you can't explain? New impulses you can't control?

ROSIE

Well, I have these recurring dreams that I . . . I'm flying with a young man.

DAVID

Flying? Our donor was a young man who spent the last day of his life flying.

ROSIE

What? How do you know?

DAVID

I wrote to his family through the hospital. He died in a hang-gliding accident.

ROSIE

Pause

So my flying dreams . . .

THERAPIST

Just dreams, that's all . . .

ROSIE

To the audience

My counselor tried to bring me back to earth.

THERAPIST

Simultaneously

-- back to earth.

ROSIE

He said dreams of flying were an expression of euphoria . . .

THERAPIST

Simultaneously

-- an expression of euphoria.

ROSIE

. . . born of my revived libido.

THERAPIST

Simultaneously

-- revived libido.

ROSIE

All of my new obsessions . . .

THERAPIST

Simultaneously

-- new obsessions.

ROSIE

. . . were related to unconscious desires . . .

THERAPIST

Simultaneously

-- unconscious desires.

ROSIE

. . . that had been repressed for a long time because of my illness.

THERAPIST

Repressed for a long time. Perhaps there's a simpler explanation to all this.

ROSIE

What's that?

THERAPIST

Maybe you're falling in love.

ROSIE

Pause

No.

DAVID

Your shrink's been reading the wrong books, Rosie. All those Freudians and neo-Freudians. You should be reading Carl Jung. The Jungians believe there is a collective unconscious. A kind of universal, symbolic memory that resides in all of us. The heart, for instance, was the symbolic reservoir of nobility and courage in the medieval world. Think of Richard the Lion Heart.

ROSIE

Richard the Lion Heart . . .?

DAVID

So even if there is no biological connection between our body parts and our donors, there is certainly a symbolic connection.

ROSIE

Flustered

A symbolic connection? You are out of your mind.

DAVID

Am I? I think you're just afraid of your own heart.

ROSIE

To the audience

Well, we argued.

DAVID

And argued.

ROSIE

Every night we argued. Was it all projection?

DAVID

Or did our body parts have "soul?"

ROSIE

Without the feud between Freud and Jung --

DAVID

Jung and Freud. This story would definitely not have happened.

ROSIE

Because one night . . .

DAVID

Late at night . . .

ROSIE

. . . he resolved the argument.

DAVID

Pause

So, will you marry me?

RABBI

For better or for worse,

For richer or poorer.

ROSIE

Our wedding took place on our first anniversary.

To the audience

Not our wedding anniversary but our transplant anniversary -- when our rules were relaxed and we had more freedom.

RABBI

In sickness and in health...

'Till death do you part.

ROSIE & DAVID

Simultaneously

'Till death do us part.

David crushes a glass in a napkin.

RABBI

Mazel Tov! You may kiss.

They embrace. David slips her an envelope

ROSIE

What's this?

DAVID

Your honeymoon.

She opens the envelope

ROSIE

Airline tickets?

DAVID

Airline tickets to anywhere. So you can fly with your young man.

They sit on a plane together

ROSIE

So the next thing I know, we're flying over the Gulf of Mexico, heading for Costa Rica on a trip that goes a hundred times faster than my great grandfather ever dreamed possible.

David starts laughing, looking in a duffel bag

And David is laughing at me . . .

To David

Why are you laughing?

DAVID

Pulling packages out of a duffel bag

Powdered milk, bottled water, packages of noodle soup . . .

ROSIE

Firmly to David

Without my powdered milk and noodle soup, this story doesn't happen.

DAVID

But it's a four-star hotel, Rosie. They have Coca-Cola, Rice-a-Roni . . .

ROSIE

We said we would only eat our own food. If we got "the runs -- "

DAVID

Okay, Rosie, okay, but I'm not gonna let fear of "the runs" rule my life.

ROSIE

To the audience

And something about the way he said it should have warned me that he wasn't thinking clearly.

JORGE

So towards the end of their honeymoon they left the windsurfers and the scuba divers, rented a Landrover and drove into the jungle heading back in time. And they found the village I had left so long ago, which hadn't changed all that much -- except for the electric generator, the satellite dish, and the TV in the village square.

ROSIE

And that day there was a wedding in the little stucco church and the bride turned out to be a distant, distant cousin. And they invited us into the church where my grandmother would have been married if she hadn't left Costa Rica. And I thought, "what a strange route I took to come home again."

JORGE

As the guest of honor at the wedding feast. Sit down! Sit down! Tortillas and black beans, roasted goat meat, fresh tomatoes and basil.

He lays a feast before them. Rosie and David look at one another

ROSIE

All carrying germs potentially as deadly to us as anthrax or plague.

DAVID

It was very embarrassing.

ROSIE

We tried to excuse ourselves from eating . . .

DAVID

. . . because of our medication.

ROSIE

But how do you say . . .

DAVID

. . . In pidgin Spanish . . .

ROSIE

. . . You have someone else's heart?

DAVID

. . . Someone else's liver?

ROSIE

The more we tried . . .

DAVID

. . . The more they looked at us like we were some kind of freaks.

ROSIE

No, not freaks . . .

DAVID

Something unholy.

ROSIE

And the atmosphere was getting pretty tense.

DAVID

Until I said . . .

Pause

to hell with it -- "L'chaim. To life!"

He drinks the fermented sugar cane

-- and downed their liquor and their grub.

Jorge drinks and embraces David. Rosie just stares. David eats a tortilla with gusto. And puts it down when he notices that Rosie is staring at him

ROSIE

To the audience

And that's when I knew he had lost it.

DAVID

To the audience

On the plane ride back she wouldn't speak to me.

To Rosie

Listen. Rosie, so I ate tortillas. Is that such a crime?

ROSIE

Isn't anything sacred? You have the gift of life. How can you abuse it?

DAVID

I'm not abusing anything. I just don't want to live scared any more. The food was fine. I'm as healthy as a horse.

ROSIE

No you're not. You're lying to me. You're lying to yourself. I've counted your bottles of Cyclosporin. You forgot to take your medicines a couple of times.

DAVID

Yeah, a couple of times. It slipped my mind. I'm on vacation!

ROSIE

No. You're on cloud nine. You think you're immortal. You've got this fantasy you're normal. And now I know why your face looks so thin. You've cut down on your steroids. Out of vanity. Pure vanity!

DAVID

So what? Why shouldn't I. They over-medicate anyway. It's my life to live.

ROSIE

No, it's your life to throw away.

She walks off in a fury

DAVID

To the audience

Most newlyweds in the back of their minds fear rejection. Only for me and for Rosie, rejection can be fatal.

ROSIE

David collapses

Two days after we landed, they rushed him to the Intensive Care Unit.

Pause. Doctor enters, shakes his head.

I couldn't forgive myself for not seeing the danger of his fantasies sooner. As his liver began to fail, I could feel my heart breaking.

DAVID

Reciting the Jewish prayer for the dead

V'yisgadal, v'yisgadesh, shmae rabo.

ROSIE

Trying to learn it

V'yisgadal, v'yisgadesh . . . I-I won't be able to do this.

DAVID

Sure you will. It's not a prayer of sorrow but in praise of God's glory. Come on, sing that song for me.

ROSIE

Reciting or singing

"One bright morning when the world is over,

I'll fly away.

To that land on God's celestial shoulder.

I'll fly away."

RABBI

In background

V'yisgadal, v'yisgadesh, shmae rabo.

ROSIE

His last request was one of joy. He wanted me to visit the mother of our hang glider, to thank her for the gift of life.

ROSIE

"I'll fly away, I'll fly away.

When I die, by and by,

I'll fly away."

David exits

ROSIE

To Joey

So, a few months later I go to visit the boy's mother.

JOEY

She is sitting by the fire with the old photo album.

ROSIE

And I knock on the door.

JOEY

Opening a picture album

And a strange woman comes to my mother's door and says --

ROSIE & JOEY

Simultaneously

I have the heart of your son.

ROSIE

And there on her lap is a Polaroid of a boy in flight.

JOEY

Up! Up! Higher and higher.

ROSIE

And the boy's mother looks at me and says, "May I?"

JOEY

Simultaneously

May I? And somehow you know exactly what she means.

ROSIE

Cradling Joey's head

So I cradle her head in my hands and place it on my chest, and let her listen to the heart . . .

JOEY

To the heart of the boy . . .

ROSIE

To the heart of the boy she called . . .

JOEY

Sound of a heart

Ta-Tum. Ta-Tum. Ta-Tum. Ta-Tum.

ROSIE

Joey.

She falls asleep with Joey in her arms. Pause. Suddenly, the sound of an alarm!

JOEY

They wake up

But at breakfast, all upset, you make your apologies.

ROSIE

I'm sorry, I'm sorry.

JOEY

You've been throwing up all morning.

ROSIE

Simultaneously, to the audience

I've been throwing up all morning.

Pause

Oh, no!

Doctor appears.

DOCTOR

Into the car.

JOEY

Onto a plane.

DOCTOR

Into an ambulance.

JOEY

Back to the hospital.

DOCTOR

Rosie?

ROSIE

Doctor . . . Am I going to die?

DOCTOR

Rosie, we're all going to die.

ROSIE

Is it my heart?

DOCTOR

Only in a manner of speaking. You're pregnant.

ROSIE

Oh.

Pause

Oh!

Joyously

The sonogram. Whoever invented the sonogram. I want to shake their hand. You can actually see the image of your baby moving . . . If not for the sonogram, you couldn't see . . .

Looking at the sonogram

Oh, she's beautiful. I named her Joey, of course, as soon as I saw her little heart, beating, beating, beating, beating . . .

JOEY

Heart beats

Ta-tum. Ta-tum. Ta-tum. Ta-tum Etc.

ROSIE

And looking at that sonogram, I suddenly thought about all those things that made her story possible.

JOEY

In background as a heartbeat

The hang glider. The beeper. The respirator. A Japanese fungus.

ROSIE

And I thought -- who knows? -- By the time she grows up, there may be some kind of gene therapy for this kind of heart disease.

DOCTOR

Gene therapy, or maybe . . .

JOEY

In the background as a heartbeat

The fax machine. Psychotherapy. The computer chip. The picnic cooler.

ROSIE

. . . maybe some way to do transplants from animals.

DOCTOR

Animal transplants, or maybe . . .

JOEY

In background as heartbeat

The helicopter. The sonogram. The jet engine.

ROSIE

. . . maybe some kind of artificial heart.

DOCTOR

A mechanical heart, or maybe . . .

JOEY

In the background as a heartbeat

Antibiotics. Anesthesia. CAT scan imaging.

ROSIE

. . . maybe some way to grow our own spare body parts.

DOCTOR

Using our own DNA.

JOEY

In background as heartbeat

The x-ray. The wireless. The Panama Canal.

ROSIE

Who knows?

DOCTOR

Who knows?

ROSIE

After all, if we think about all the changes in the last hundred years --

JOEY

As if flying

Come fly away . . .

DOCTOR

Just think of what it's going to be like for her....

JOEY

Come fly away . . .

ROSIE

As she flies off . . .

JOEY

Fly away home!

ROSIE

. . . into the twenty-first . . .

ROSIE & DOCTOR

. . . into the twenty-first . . .

ROSIE & DOCTOR & JOEY

. . . into the twenty-first century.

End of play




Helpful References

Dowie, Mark. "We Have a Donor". St. Martin's Press. 1988.

Gutkind, Lee. "Many Sleepless Nights". W.W. Norton & Co. 1988.

Massachusetts General Hospital Organ Transplant Team and H.F. Pizer. "Organ Transplants: A Patient's Guide". Harvard University Press. 1991.

Starzl, Thomas E., MD, PhD. "The Puzzle People: Memoirs of a Transplant Surgeon". University of Pittsburgh Press. 1992.

Transweb. <http://www.transweb.org>
Links to several transplant sites.

United Network for Organ Sharing Home Page. <http://www.unos.org/>
Helpful site for yearly statistics of donors and recipients by organ.


Frequently Asked Questions

1. What difference would one donor make?
Approximately twenty-five different organs and tissues can be transplanted including the heart, lung, liver, kidney, pancreas, bone marrow, cartilage and cornea.

2. How many people in the United States are on a waiting list for an organ and how many people die each year while waiting?
There are more than 48,000 people waiting for organs in the United States. Approximately 2,800 people each year die while waiting for an organ. That's about eight people each day!

3. Who gets the organ?
When patients are placed on a waiting list for an organ their medical profiles are entered and stored in the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) computer. Each patient enters a "pool" of patient names and is not ranked at that time. When a donor becomes available the computer ranks each patient according to several medical and scientific criteria: tissue compatibility, blood type, heart size, length of time on the waiting list, recipient's distance from the donor hospital, and current medical status. Each donor generates a different list of recipient patients. Recipients selected must be available, healthy enough for major surgery and willing to receive their transplant immediately. (Data from UNOS Web site)

4. Why is Cyclosporin so important?
The introduction of Cyclosporin, an immunosuppressant, in the 1980s increased the survival rate for all transplant patients. Heart transplant surgery, especially, was greatly affected. In the years after the first heart transplant, performed by Christiaan Barnard in 1968, the six-month survival rate of a heart transplant patient was only twenty-two percent. Now, survival rates for the first six months are up to ninety percent and the ten year survival rate is as high as sixty percent!

5. How long can major organs be preserved?
* Heart: 4-6 hours
* Liver: 12-24 hours
* Kidney: 48-72 hours
* Lung: 4-6 hours

Many other questions, answers, and statistics about transplants can be found on the United Network for Organ Sharing Web site <http://www.unos.org/>.




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