Even if you know nothing about anatomy, you know there’s something special about the heart. It’s the organ that pumps our blood, that maintains life. When it stops working, so does everything else.
But one way to keep the lifeblood pumping is with an artificial heart.
It’s an idea that can seem like science fiction – and it essentially was, until a Texas doctor decided to make it happen.
“The heart has a different history from all the other organs,” Swartz tells Texas Standard. “Part of it is physical, part of it is spiritual.”
Swartz says she was drawn to her latest subject in part because of geography. “Because I live in Houston and love Houston, I knew some of this history,” she says. But the race for the artificial heart also featured “great characters that were so much fun to write about,” Swartz says – characters like Denton Cooley, the Houston surgeon who performed the first implantation of a fully artificial heart.
“To be a heart surgeon at a certain point in time was like being an astronaut,” Swartz says. “You had to have certain characteristics that translate from ‘The Right Stuff’ into the operating room.”
Listen to our interview with Mimi Swartz about “Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart” in the audio player above.