Transplant surgeries offer patients a new lease on life through a new heart, kidney or a lung. However, the post-surgery side effects may be less than ideal for the unassuming donee.
A new mystery uncovered in transplant patients may show that second chances may come with a price—and it’s not just monetary.
Researchers have uncovered a new phenomenon in transplant patients who have reported mysterious post-surgery side effects where they’ve inherited their donor’s “favourite things”.
Some have even gone as far as to say they’ve inherited whole personalities and memories.
New heart, new me
Although liver and bone marrow transplants have resulted in some cases of changing a recipient’s blood type to match their donor’s over time, some experiences were more out-of-body in nature.
Patients have reported changes in favourite foods, music, career and even preferences in sex. Most cases are simply apparent in tastes and preferences, whereas others retell the creepy recollection of trauma and memories that their donor experienced before they died.
Here are some of the more bizarre recollections that shocked the scientific community:
1. Insatiable junk food cravings
David Waters from Australia developed a sudden insatiable craving for junk food after receiving a heart from Kaden Delaney, an 18-year old with a hunger for fast food snacks.
Incidentally, his “hunger” started suddenly after his operation. At first, it seemed negligible but after recognising he had ‘no desire at all’ for Burger rings, hamburger-flavoured crips nor onion rings previously, it piqued his curiosity.
When his donor’s family tracked him down to reach out to the new owner of their son’s heart, they were astonished when the first question his recipient asked was “Did Kaden like Burger Rings?”.
The reply was, yes, he ate them daily.
Another woman who was a heart-lung transplant recipient craved the specific combination of chicken nuggets and beer which lo and behold, were her donor’s go-to comfort foods. She even went on to write a book about it.
2. In cold blood
If this wasn’t proof enough, another personality change documented in a transplant patient took a sinister turn when an 8-year-old American girl received the heart from her 10-year-old donor who was murdered in cold blood.
The murderer was still at large when her terrifying dreams of a man murdering her began. Her dreams and recollections of the murderer were so accurate that police were able to track him down and convict him.
3. Old habits die hard
American transplant patient, Sonny Graham, was lucky enough to receive a new heart from Terry Cottle in 1995— or so he thought.
Cottle had lost his life when he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.
In a sudden twist of events, Graham met Cottle’s widow and fell in love and married her. 12 years later, Graham died by shooting himself in the throat.
Cottle’s widow became a widow, for the second time.
Pseudoscience or legitimate theory
From what scientists understand, there is a theory of “body memory”, which proposes that organs, not just the brain, are capable of storing memory.
“Cellular memory” is derived from this theory, and claims to explain these personality changes in transplant patients.
According to cellular memory, it details the speculative notion that body cells do contain data of our distinct personalities, tastes and lifelong histories which are independent of what is detailed in our genetic code. However, much of this theory is debated to be utter hogwash by skeptics within the science community.
In Singapore, patients vying for their second chance could wait for months even years. Despite changes to legislation, the average rate of organ donation remains low. Perhaps the best gift you can give someone is a second chance, even if it means they can live out their lives vicariously through your organs and memories.