People stare. They gather around. “You can touch it, but guess what it’s made out of,” I say.
One woman whispers, “It’s not part of an egg carton, is it?” Then a man behind her shouts, “It’s a condom, blown out and rolled up, ya know,” just as another lady interrupts, “Wait! It’s the flower-pod thingies from an opium poppy.”
No. It’s not dried foreskin, goat or antelope horn, eye sockets, calamari, human colon slices, spinal column things, or the penis bone from a sea lion.
It’s ten heart valves from ten human hearts. Three strands of turquoise. And me.
As I open the small Ziplock bag, ten prosthetic heart valves tumble onto my bed. Six disc valves, two ball valves, and two porcine valves. I wrap strands of turquoise around, through, under, and over them until I find a way to string them all together.
Raised in a morgue, I worked alongside my father, the city medical examiner. Dad keeps mailing me stuff he finds inside people. It’s December 2012 and I’m digging through a cardboard box filled with pacemakers and heart valves, when I decide to make a necklace for my birthday.
I’m Sagittarius. My birthstone is turquoise–a stone of wisdom and spiritual growth. Turquoise strengthens the throat chakra and opens communication between the heart and spoken word.
In medicine, technological advances have surpassed our spiritual wisdom. We know heart disease is caused by hardening of the arteries, but it is rare that a doctor will discuss the spiritual impact of a hardened heart. We implant heart valves to correct restricted blood flow, but it is rare that a doctor will allow love to flow freely to a patient. Health care requires a balance of heart and head.
My turquoise and heart vale necklace reminds me to get out of my head a bit and speak from my heart.