Heart on Gallery Display
by Alistair Strachan of The Fortean Times

Transplant patient Jennifer Sutton paid a visit to an exhibition in London called The Heart today, mainly to check out a particular item on display – her own heart.

Jennifer, 23, from the New Forest, UK, had a heart transplant at Papworth Hospital, Cambridge, on 4 June 2007. She lent her heart to the Wellcome Collection for the exhibition to increase public awareness of donation and Restrictive Cardiomyopathy, the disease that would have killed her.

As you might imagine, she found the experience very odd and moving. “Seeing my heart for the first time is an emotional and surreal experience. It caused me so much pain and turmoil when it was inside me. Seeing it sitting here is extremely bizarre and very strange. Finally I can see this odd looking lump of muscle that has given me so much upset. It’s tremendous it has become an object of fascination and will get people thinking about the disease, heart transplants and organ donation.”

The exhibition is on at the Wellcome Collection until 16 September 2007. If you haven’t yet been we fully recommend a visit (though that’s easy for us to say – it’s just 5 minutes up the road from FT towers). The show gathers together depictions of the heart from a wide range of sources – folk art, medical books, ancient myths – along with recent surgical equipment that, to my eyes, looks more at home in a print shop than an operating theatre. You can also compare the heart beat rates of squirrels, cats, whales and other mammals, a demo which proves that we have more in common with pigs than we realise.

Also, while you’re there, don’t forget to peruse the other oddities in the permanent collection, including Charles Darwin’s blingtastic walking stick.