The Phoenix Zine

Some Organs That I Used to Know

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Right now, I am obsessed with Goyte’s “Somebody That I Used to Know.” First I heard it on Glee as an argument between two brothers and then Goyte turned out to be the musical guest on Saturday Night Live (SNL) that week.  After Goyte and Kimbra performed, Andy Samberg and Taran Killam did a SNL sketch spoofing Goyte’s music video so I looked up the real music video on YouTube.  (Watch the unique music video here and the spoof here under Digital Short: Goyte Backstage.)

The song is about a seemingly amicable break-up that results in the ex-girlfriend cutting off all contact with her ex-boyfriend.  Like they were never together at all.  The ex-boyfriend, lamenting this turn of events, is singing the song with some input from his ex-girlfriend.  The music video features Goyte standing naked in front of a blank wall that gradually becomes a painting that includes him.  When Kimbra enters the video she is already part of the painting, but as the song progresses her colours are removed and she is able to leave the painting.

It is National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week (April 22 to 28) here in Canada, and that along with reading the articles about Hélène Campbell, recent double lung transplant recipient, have conspired to get me thinking more about my two transplants.

I am obviously a big supporter of organ donation since it has saved my life twice.  Lately my brain has been approaching transplantation from a different angle.

Rhythm starts, then xylophone music.  Open on a blank wall, camera pans up to find a heart and a liver hanging on it inexplicably, in an anatomically correct fashion.  Both have mouths and start to sing: “Now and then I think of when we were together…”  The organs seem to sway a bit in time to the music, and as they reach the end of the first verse a drawing starts appearing around them.  The lines start at the bottom of the wall and stretch upwards, revealing a human silhouette.

As the organs continue with the second verse (“You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness…”), the silhouette gets filled in with drawings of the other organs so when they reach the part about still being friends, the heart and liver appear as if they are part of a human again.  You feel the hurt in their voices as they reach the chorus, singing the following words with passion:

“But you didn’t have to cut me off.

Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing.

And I don’t even need your love,

But you treat me like a stranger and I feel so rough.

No you didn’t have to stoop so low.

Have your friends collect your records and then change your number

I guess that I don’t need that though

Now you’re just somebody that I used to know.”

Putting improbability aside, a woman appears beside the silhouette.  Her chest and belly are open but there are no organs inside her.  Without lungs she is still able to sing: “Now and then I think of all the times you’ve screwed me over…”

She continues to harmonize after she finishes her verse as the organs sing the chorus again.  As they sing, the painted organs start disappearing around them, appearing instead in the woman’s body.  This continues until only the heart and liver are left, and the human silhouette has disappeared as well.  The skin flaps of woman’s chest cavity close and she is stitched up by a surgical needle and thread that appear from nowhere.  Once sewn up, she leaves the two organs hanging on the wall as the music fades out and the song ends.

So it is graphic and gross, but that is how it has been playing in my head.  In our focus on the joy of transplantation, the new life and second chances, we do not often think about the organs that have been discarded.

After I had been placed on the heart transplant list and decided to send my old heart to Duke University for medical research, I had a panic attack.  Through the tears and hyperventilating, I realised the gist of it was that I felt like I was betraying my heart by sending it away.

My heart had done right by me for 26 years, even though it was slower than the other hearts because it had to deal with restrictive cardiomyopathy.  Maybe it was not as efficient as the other hearts, but I always felt it tried its best.  And here I was, not only having it removed from my body but shipped off to another country on its own, to be subjected to medical testing for the rest of its existence.

Likewise, my old liver is supposedly in a freezer somewhere in The Hospital for Sick Children.  Perhaps after 24 years it is not still there, because if they kept all the organs they removed you would think they would run out of storage space.  Still, I find it difficult to reconcile the fact that my real liver and heart exist outside my body in different locations.  We treat it like it is nothing, like organs are easily removed and replaced, but I cannot help missing my original liver and heart sometimes.

I love Kimbra’s part in the song because it could be me singing, “Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over, part of me believing it was always something that I’d done.”

My organs and I were part of a love/hate relationship.  I loved them but things started to turn sour when they began to fail on me.  I often wondered later if there was something I had done wrong to cause them to fail.  Had they not been cut from my body I would have died, but as with almost any break-up, the sudden separation is painful.

Sadly, my liver and heart do share similarities with an old ex-boyfriend cast aside.  Although sometimes I Google them and read medical articles about the research they have inspired, we are now strangers and have no direct contact.

Inspite of everything, I do not see them as just some organs that I used to know, but as an important part of me that I still feel grief over losing.

One Comment

  1. It is a strange feeling to have a part of someone else incorporated with yourself. It does make you question the transient nature of the existence of “me”. Which part of my body is actually me? How long do I own the part of our body? They say the soul lie in the heart, does add and modify part of it affect my soul?

    yet we incorporate others into ourselves all our life. We were born from flesh of our mother. Physically we eat other beings (animal and plants), break them down into the smallest useful components and rebuild them into our own system. On a different level we psychologically and mentally take on others ideas and through, extract the parts we found meaningful and reinvent our own thinking.

    It seem it is our mission, purpose, and destiny to intermingle with much of the world and other living beings. The relationship between Donors and Recipients, The relationship among different organs within a body, all seem to echo the macrocosm of our social relationship with everyone else.

    I have only donated blood before. But symbolically it isn’t just the blood cells I have donated. With them the immune response with it – a form of biological knowledge that differentiate myself from you. A portion of what I have experience and learned was passed on to the Recipient at a cellular level.

    With that in mind I think I have a faint idea what it might be like as a Recipient. I believe there is a sort of battle/learning going on. There is the initial acknowledge of the “other” self and then a lifetime to friendship and conservation with them. You learn of how to best use of their wonderful ability while make peace with their shortcoming. You learn of their potential and their ultimate limit. You become the leader of your body and the moderator of each system. Sound a bit corny but i think there are some truth to that.

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