Would you consider donating an organ – heart, liver, lungs – to an unknown recipient when you die?
Would you consider receiving such an organ from an unknown donor if you needed one?
The law relating to organ donation has recently changed in England: as from 20th May 2020 it is assumed that you are willing to donate your organs unless you specifically opt out – something you can do on-line, the link is here:
It was when I heard about this change to the law that I remembered a conversation I had had with Mark the Colour Man many years ago, when we both lived and worked in the Algarve. I can’t remember why we were talking about it, but Mark mentioned research done by a surgeon in the US into personality changes experienced by recipients of organs, where they appeared to take on aspects of the donor. I went hunting and found the surgeon we had talked about – Dr Gary Schwartz – and lots more besides.
Let me make it clear before we dive in that this whole topic is highly personal, and I respect that. I am not trying to influence anyone in one direction or another, either as donor or recipient: I am merely presenting some information that is very well referenced, and that you won’t find on the NHS website.
To give you an idea of scale, in the year 01 April 2018 – 31 March 2019, there were a total of 3,953 organ transplants in UK from deceased donors, of which 2,399 were kidney, 183 were heart and the remainder a mix of other organs. In the year 01 April 2019 – 31 March 2020, there were a total of 3,763 transplants from deceased donors, of which 2,283 were kidney and 172 were heart.
As at 11 May 2020, there are 2,634 people waiting for a transplant in the UK, and 203 people have received transplants (of any organ) since 01 April 2020.
In the US by contrast, in 2018 there were 3,408 heart transplants alone.
So – what has all of that got to do with anything anywhere on the Indigo spectrum, broad though that is?
The point is that significant numbers of recipients are reporting personality changes which, upon investigation, correlate completely with traits, tastes and characteristics of the organ donor. This has led to fresh research into the whole question of memories: how are they made, where are they stored, and how can they be passed from one person to another via an organ?
Probably the first “big case” to hit the headlines was that of Claire Sylvia in America in the 1970s. Sylvia, a former professional dancer, received a heart-lung transplant when she was 47. Five months after the operation, Sylvia explains in her book A Change of Heart, she had a dream about a tall, thin young man called Tim, whose surname began with an L. During the dream she became sure that Tim was her donor and that parts of his spirit and personality were part of her. Her personality changes included diet – cravings for chicken nuggets and beer – and other traits such as increased libido and an attraction to rounded, blonde women. It was almost two decades later than she traced the family of her donor – an 18-year-old young man called Tim, surname started with L, who had been carrying chicken nuggets tucked in his jacket when he was killed in a motorbike accident.
Another case that hit the headlines was even more extraordinary. An 8-year-old girl received the heart of a 10-year-old girl. The recipient started having nightmares after the operation, in which a man was trying to kill her. The dreams were so vivid that her donor was traced: the 10-year-old donor had been murdered, and the description given by the recipient was so accurate that police were able to arrest and convict the murderer.
A 29-year-old woman received the heart of a 19-year-old who was vegetarian. The recipient, formerly a meat-eating junk-food fan, turned completely away from meat, couldn’t stand to smell it.
On the other hand, a mid-50s man in the UK found that, from being a take-away only chef, he could suddenly cook and took over the kitchen after his heart transplant, much to the astonishment and delight of his wife!
A 5-year old boy received the heart of a 3-year-old boy and gave his parents an accurate description of the donor, down to the fact that he liked Power Rangers as the recipient had done, and that “he got hurt bad when he fell down”.He gave his donor a name, Timmy. The donor died after falling from an apartment window trying to reach his Power Ranger toy: although his name was Thomas, everyone called him Timmy.
There are many, many case study examples highlighting changes not only in food preferences, but in music, art, sporting activities and even sexuality. Some recipients report that they are aware of their donors “inside them” in some way, and form relationships with them. They are able to describe the donor in detail, even though protocol prevents identity being revealed and contact details given. In the early days, as with Clair Sylvia, the medical profession brushed away such stories, saying treatment and drugs accounted for cravings and so on. Nowadays,
as increasing numbers of cases – certainly in US and UK – come to the fore – it is being taken more seriously, and research is being done into possible reasons. It seems the heart is much more than just a pump (who knew!!).
The likely cause seems to be cellular memory. Where do we store memories? In our immune system, for a start, to help us fight viruses and so on. And in our brain. But it seems that our memories are also stored at a cellular level. Scientists say there are various types of cellular memory: Epigenetic; DNA, RNA and protein, and then there’s cardiac neurological memory; and even energetic memory. This last I find particularly interesting because scientists are looking at the information field of the heart, including electromagnetics. As neuropsychologist Dr Paul Pearsall said, “Energy and information are the same thing. Everything that exists has energy, energy is full of information, and stored info-energy is what makes up cellular memories.” He wrote several books including The Heart’s Code.
Nowadays more research is available from people such as the HeartMath Institute about the workings of the heart and the physical and emotional co-relation – but cellular memory takes this even further, to another person altogether.
It gets very complex and very scientific very quickly from here on in, and I am no scientist. If you would like to know more, I suggest you do your own research. I found a highly-informative scientific paper called “Personality Changes Following Heart Transplantation: The Role of Cellular Memory” by Mitchell B Liester, MD, of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, dated autumn 2019, so very up-to-date. You can find it on the website ResearchGate here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/336987446_Personality_Changes_Following_Heart_Transplantation_The_Role_of_Cellular_Memory
Once you start looking, as I did, there is a lot out there – but we rarely look, do we?
Such happenings don’t occur in every case, of course, and it seems to happen mostly with heart transplants – although I did come across a case of a 25-year-young lady in the UK with cystic fibrosis who received a lung transplant and died of cancer just 16 months later. It was discovered that the lungs, although deemed “clean” and “suitable”, came from a middle-aged man, a regular smoker.
According to Gavin Pettigrew, a transplant surgeon at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, one of the leading transplant centres in the country, “most transplants don’t last beyond about 15 years … we think this is caused by the immune response against the organ, even with anti-rejection drugs.”
There is a strong campaign at the moment to inform the public about the change in the law, and to encourage us all to donate our organs “to save more lives”. As a potential donor, the idea of helping one person – or indeed several people – to more years of life is a powerful motivator. And as a recipient, the idea of having a better quality of life for even a decade or two is usually enough to outweigh any possible risks.
There is no right or wrong, it’s a very personal choice. But it does beg the question,
“exactly what is it that is being given and received?”
Just remember, the law has changed. Unless you specifically opt out, it will be
assumed that you agree to your organs being used in transplants.