It seems my life revolves neverendingly around children’s stories. The one I was reminded of today was called either “Mr. Fix-it” or “Mr. Fix-it’s Shop”. Sisters, I’m sure you can help me here. Regardless, the story focuses on a nice old man who keeps a shop for mending things – radios, violins, bureaus, tennis rackets – even the kitchen sink. His sign proclaims that he can fix everything except broken hearts. There’s a little girl in the neighborhood who comes in after school and helps out a bit and watches him work. One day her doll falls apart, and she’s heartbroken, and Mr. Fix-it goes to work – replacing an eye here, making a new wooden arm out of an old baseball bat there. Eventually the doll is as good as new, or better. The little girl demands that Mr. Fix-it changes his sign, because when he fixed her doll he fixed her heart too. It’s a nice story.
What reminded me of it, however, is a little less poignant. MIT has new research out about using a biodegradable ‘scaffold’ to hold heart tissue. The tissue plus scaffold could be implanted to fix congenital defects or as replacement tissue after a heart attack. Eventually the scaffolding would be absorbed by the body, hopefully leaving the heart ‘complete’. Of course, even this newer version of scaffolding can’t do everything we want it to – we’ve made progress, but they’re still working on it.
I’m all for improving the health of our hearts. The idea that in the future this technology will firmly be in place to the benefit of those I love and myself is reassuring. Still, the technology needs to be coupled with an ounce of prevention. Shouldn’t we be protecting our hearts just a little better instead of fixing them after they’re broken?
Both the articles about the new, better, strong scaffolding and the story about Mr. Fix-it are delightful reads. But both give us a message as well. The latter tells us of the power to heal we each have in our kindnesses and in our actions for the sake of others. The former tells us that though science is a powerful tool, it is only a tool. It can adapt to future problems we may have, but will never be a complete solution. Only rarely will it fix a broken heart.