The story of a heart valve
November 29, 2018 5:58 AM   Subscribe

Looking Inside My Heart. "Jen Hyde discovered that her heart valve was made by women working in a factory near her childhood home. Getting to know them brought her closer to her own mother." [Via]
Because I’ve never seen my own bioprosthetic heart valve, I couldn’t imagine its global origins or the human hands that had put it together until I peered into this room.

I watch each woman move like the blood in my body, pulsing through with desire, shame, regret, and longing. Every inch of their bodies are covered in medical garments. Sarah instructs me to put on a pair of latex gloves, then places a sample of my own valve in my hand. I hold it to my eye to study the stitches, but I have trouble seeing a single one. I can’t feel the textures of the valve with my gloved hands; it looks machine made.

Even as I hold it now and observe the women at work on the other side of the glass, it seems like a work of fiction that the valve inside my body had been assembled by them. And yet, as I hold the valve for the first time, despite my disbelief in the very existence of this room, I feel a deep gratitude for these women and their labor. That the object now inside me had been made here, had brought me here to Irvine made me wonder what else I couldn’t see about my own life.
posted by homunculus (5 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 9:13 AM on November 29, 2018

This is such a beautifully written story, and really interesting to learn about. (My own articulateness feels very inadequate after that, but the entire piece felt so holistic, so elegant, even as I was surprised and fascinated by where each individual section went.)
posted by mixedmetaphors at 11:31 AM on November 29, 2018

I found it on Megan Stielstra's twitter: "This essay is incredible. Incredible. ❤️ @jenlhyde"

Stielstra wrote the incredible piece about axe throwing which got posted a few weeks ago. I figured if she said a piece of writing was incredible, she was likely right.
posted by homunculus at 11:51 AM on November 29, 2018

Thanks for sharing this.

I am the fortunate recipient of (thus far) three of these types of valves---though mine were all "harvested" from a pig. I'd not be here otherwise. (N.B. I've had three because they do eventually wear out/rip and need replacing.) Sometime after the first one was "installed" I visited the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago where there was an exhibit on bioprotheses (sp?). They had a cardiac tissue valve mounted in a lucite box filled with a clear fluid that circulated in such a way as to mimic the beating of the heart. Opening, closing, opening and closing. When they call these things "tissue valves" they are not kidding. It was like watching some exotic jellyfish swimming. I couldn't even begin to imagine what sort of skill it took to fabricate, to say nothing of then installing, one of these fragile life-sustaining things.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 8:00 PM on November 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

The author on Twitter: @jenlhyde: "Trump administration motions to deport Vietnamese refugees suggest that no matter how long you’ve been here you are ALWAYS deportable. This isn’t immigration reform, it's a fracturing of lives and communities. Vietnamese refugees saved my life"
posted by homunculus at 1:34 PM on December 17, 2018

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