You gotta have heart, maybe one from a pig

Graphic showing a pig-to-human heart transplant. Tribune News Service

TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE — Eddie Fisher, a terrific singer popular back in the 1950s, came to mind the other day because he crooned, “You gotta have heart, miles and miles and miles of heart,” and I had just read about the first successful heart transplant from a pig to a man.

Ultimately, possibly, this extraordinary medical advance could save hundreds of thousands of lives. But first the doctors had to get permission from the dying patient.

“Will I oink?” he asked, as reported by The New York Times, and I thought here it is: the amazing and profoundly important sense of humor my fellow Americans have even in the toughest situations.

I myself get by with kidding when checking out of Walmart wearing a mask to hide my identity. There’s one clerk who usually hits first, once asking through his own mask if I knew that the most astounding of all rock stars had never made a record. I said no and asked who he was talking about.

Mount Rushmore, he said.

But recently, in this exceptional land of ours, we have not seemed so exceptional. Here we are with a polarized culture, polarized politics, inerasable Trump traces, race riots, a Capitol riot, the Afghanistan catastrophe, inflation delivered with a shrug, COVID-19 confusion on just about any and every front, Bernie Sanders’s ideological virus infecting endless Democrats, Russia and China challenging us around the clock, Iran still working on its nuclear weapons and Joe Biden as president.

Well, he’s better than the alternative if he should quit, but let’s get back to Eddie Fisher, once married to Debbie Reynolds and then Elizabeth Taylor, and this wonderful song in which he sang: “Get your chin off the floor mister, you can be a hero, you can open any door.” ... “First you’ve gotta have heart.” With all of that in mind, derive some oomph, if you will, from America still being a scientific wonder in the 21st century.

We learn this particular operation took place in Baltimore; it took eight hours and came about through the long-sought, technically complicated discovery that pigs are a lot more able to provide usable, right-sized organs for humans than other animals if they are genetically modified. The patient was not allowed to get a heart from a recently deceased human because there are not all that many donors; the demands are great; and he was close to death. The pig heart is his now and so far has been doing its duties faithfully, lending hope that there will come a time when hundreds of thousands of lives can be saved by kidneys and hearts from pigs.

So have hope not just in science, which I believe is going to give us sane, workable solutions to climate change, as one example, but in politics if we can restore faith in what got us to our best days, such as the genius of our founders, the Constitution, the rule of law, free markets, free speech and consent of the governed but also the separation of powers and other means to avoid the tyranny of the majority, which can sometimes happen.

For help, we can look again to pigs, domesticated from wild boars thousands of years ago and filling our stomachs with delicious pork since then. There’s a fairy tale called “The Three Little Pigs,” and remember they were brothers living in three different homes, two made of sticks and straw and one made of brick.

The Big Bad Wolf came, threatened to blow the houses down and succeeded with the flimsy ones, eating two of the pigs. The brick house did not go down and the third pig ate the wolf in revenge for his lost brothers.

Our American house is made of brick and we can keep it that way. But in the face of all these troubles, we first gotta have heart and shoo the wolf away, not eat it.

Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send emails to speaktojay@aol.com. © 2022 Tribune Content Agency.

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(2) comments

rdsouth

There's another name for "the tyranny of the majority": Democracy. It will win in the end, no matter how many spare guns those intent on minority rule may possess.

KRobbins

My God, what was that stream of consciousness nonsense about? He couldn’t fit the pigman from Seinfeld in?

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