The Coming of the Impossible
A delicate construction of shimmering metal stands at rest, not yet set in motion. A small
shining lever is touched, and it begins:
Click, Bang, Whoosh, Click, Bang, Whoosh, Click, Bang, Whoosh…
As a child, I was fascinated by the idea of a perpetual motion machine—something that never
stopped, never required further input: magic. My parents had thrown a physics book in with the Doctor
Seusses, and I sat, reading and re-reading invention plans of scientists who hoped that finally, theirs was
a perpetual motion machine. And for years, I would lie in bed and imagine a million combinations of
wire and innovation until I had found something, the very something physicists dreamed of, that
thermodynamics proved impossible.
To anyone as young as I was then, life is everlasting, death a lie. The heart pounded on, never
stopping, and though it required nourishment, blood, oxygen, it was still closer than anyone else had
come to the correct formula.
As I got older, shifting to biology rather than physics, I was told of the heart’s dread diseases—
tricuspid atresia, super ventricular tachycardia—long dancing words to describe horrible tortures. Still
though, death seemed far from me, and I did not truly believe a heart would simply stop, not until last
I awoke on the twenty-sixth to the sweet, glimmering aftertaste of Christmas and a phone, filled
like a stocking, with text messages. As I scrolled through them, my happiness ebbed, confusion reigned;
the last message faded in and out of focus like the snowy sky as I tried to comprehend.
I heard about Eliza; I’m so sorry. I’ll be praying for you.
A million fragmented pieces of worry rushed against my skull, bruising my thoughts, culminating
in a slow, unwilling press of the ‘call’ button.
Ring—the noise was slow, brooding, sinister. The next ring cut off, giving way to a voice.
“Are you okay?” Alan whispered solemnly, as though speaking over someone’s deathbed, “Did
“Your text?” I cut him off abruptly, not hearing my rudeness over the raging desire for
understanding. “What did you hear about Eliza?”
There was a slow, horrified intake of breath, and I had the sense that he was trying to breathe in
all of the world’s compassion before he tried to tell me. She had died, he said, in the waning hours of
Christmas day—her heart had stopped.
In the ensuing silence, I felt…nothing. No sadness, just horrible vast emptiness, as if my own
heart had been severed from the rest of me; I watched from the outside as my family’s despair fell like
rain across the house, all of the emotions I should have felt but couldn’t.
I couldn’t quite believe it: surely she still had to be alive somewhere, waiting for her transplant.
For months, I stumbled through a deadened haze, unable to focus on anything but the lovely blond girl
dancing behind my eyelids, whom I would never see again.
“You know,” her mother said one day over lunch, as the two of us swirled forks across our
plates, unwilling to eat with Eliza’s empty chair, “only ten doctors in the world could have performed her
I stared in disbelief: there was enough space in any of my classrooms to fit all of the
cardiovascular transplant surgeons three times over, while the waiting list of transplant hopefuls could
have filled half my town. It seemed so unbalanced, so wrong.
But there, there was I, a young girl, ready to be molded into a yet unnamed career, and it had
named itself—the confluence of my best friend’s inspiration and my childhood dreams. Were there only
ten? Well, I would make eleven.
Though the heart itself is only a muscle, fallible and often flawed, there is the emotional heart,
the idealistic heart, the essence of humanity that will not be destroyed; as long as there is life, it will go
on. Protected in transplant, a heart is placed slowly into a new chest, its beating renewed. And there,
inside that person, a miracle is created—the person to whom the heart belonged is still alive in part,
immortalized in the salvation of its recipient. The recipient refuses to fall from the minds of doctors and
nurses; they are a success, a life protected, an inspiration. As a patient’s life propels itself forward with
each strong beat of a new heart, they themselves climb to immortality, reaching out to their children
and friends and families with the strength of love, love which invariably moves on to the children’s
children, the friends’ friends, the families’ families.
The single act, the simple transfer of a heart, sends out waves that will never stop moving—it
has already touched me, a tidal wave crashing onto a young beach, and I don’t intend to stop the
perpetual motion. I intend to push it forward, to refuse to let it stop; the impossible has come, and far
be it from me to stop it.
I will carry hearts to new bodies (Click)
I will watch them begin to beat anew (Bang)
I will watch patients fight for life and win (Whoosh)