This thought led to my abandoning the work on a novel about heart transplants. The trouble was I had done too much research to have my head maintain a simple tale: child receives heart from acephalous baby – next needed donor hear (toddler drowned in family pool) not suitable (hidden defect) – final heart from child whose mother with unborn child all killed in a motor vehicle collision.
The definition of death was redefined by a Harvard Committee within six weeks of the first successful heart transplant, publishing the report less than 9 months later. Brain Death
As was described to me, my son was ‘brain dead’ at the time his heel was pricked and he showed no response. What could not be taken into account at the time was the repair of his oesophageal atresia at 36 hours when, in 1964, the medical profession had yet to recognise that babies felt pain. As such, anaesthetic used was usually curare to enable immobility. Many months later I needed to return him to the operating hospital to ensure a chest infection had no effect on the original operation. As I carried him into the ward, this quiet, placid baby scanned the ceiling and started screaming at the top of his lungs. I told him. “It’s okay, love, they are not going to cut you open this time.” The nurse insisted he would not have remembered. He KNEW he was in a place associated with pain. So, having that level of experience of pain, would his brain have bothered to react to a pin prick? That thought occurred to me as I pondered on the research for the novel. I had authorised the donation of his kidneys. The concept his brain could register an incision had me roll dry-reaching over the side of my bed.
Did I want to continue writing an evocative novel?
But the plot is there for the taking. (Film credits only)