Heart Apple
15 Jan 2017

Talmudic Insight on Pig Valve Replacements


What The Talmud Had To Teach Us About My Father’s Health


My father after a miraculous recovery

I feel compelled to share this remarkable and personal story. Here is the preamble.

The Talmud (Taanit) states that if there is a plague on the people, a fast should be called. I realize it is not that PC but the Talmud does assume that G-d communicates to us through nature rather than a revelation from a mountain. Thus if we are off point, our Creator guides us back in the right direction by presenting us with signs on the physical plane. The sages continue by stating that if there is a plague on the livestock, a fast need not be proclaimed. They are after all, also not necessarily PC, not humans. However, if there is a plague on the pigs, the community must fast. The reason given is that “the internal organs of a pig are similar to those of a human being.”

    However, if there is a plague on the pigs, the community must fast.”

Now for the story. About two months ago, my father went missing. Thank G-d he was found, – far from home and after twenty three hours! They rank as the most harrowing of my life. Not knowing was worse than knowing.

We feared Alzheimer. But then my Dad was so present in a conversation! It just didn’t jive. Why could he engage in dialogue in a thoughtful way, perform other tasks with skill and so on?

What Science Had to Say

valveA wonderful young doctor provided us with the answer.

As a youth my father suffered from strep that went undiagnosed. It developed into rheumatic fever. The mystics teach us that the mouth is the gateway to the heart. When we are angry our voice rises; when we speak genuinely our voice communicates our sincerity and when we are lying, that too is traceable in the voice print. Our mouth holds thirty two teeth. In Hebrew, letters have numerical values. Thirty two spells lev, “heart”. Similarly we are taught that words which emanate from the heart, enter the heart. All this of course applies at a physical level too. The streptococcus bacteria travel from the throat to the heart. As a result of that illness, my father had to undergo two valve replacements roughly thirty years apart. The first for the mitral valve and the second for the aortic.


Me and my parents in New York

Apparently doctors used to replace valves with those of pigs. Having grown up in South Africa where Chris Barnard performed the world’s first successful human-to-human heart transplant, I vaguely remember hearing about the valve procedure as well. They are less common today. In doing research why, I came across a site where Adam Pick writes, “During my visit (of the Edwards Lifesciences manufacturing facility in Irvine, California), I learned a lot about pig valve transplants. It was amazing to see the incredible care and steps required to transform and ready a pig valve transplant for use. From the slaughterhouse, to the measuring, to the treatment, to the stitching, to the testing. It’s not easy. On average, it takes about four weeks to transform a pig heart valve so that is ready to transplant into a human heart.” One can well understand why modern medicine, in its haste, turns its nose up at all that time!


My father and son

Pig valves have been replaced by silicone ones. My fathers doctor explained that our blood recognizes any foreign body and begins to clot
upon contact with it. To prevent this, one has to take a blood thinner called Warfrin. It is in fact (shock) rat poison! Needless to say, my dad was lax in his visits to the doctor to check up on his PI (Primary Immunodeficiency). As a result, over the course of years, he suffered a series of mini strokes that damaged the brain. The area that was damaged is that which has to do with spatial recognition.

Thus was solved the question of his disappearance and the blessing of knowing that albeit requiring some life changes, neither he nor we had to contend with Alzheimer’s.

Here’s to your healthy and happy heart!