Issue 63 / May - June 2008
It's me, Peter, your Heart!
I started working months before you were born. Even though I have kept beating ceaselessly every second inside, you have never given an ear to find out who it is. It is me, your heart, the engine of your body. I feel an urge to give you some counsel.
When you were a mere nineteen-day embryo, my creation began from a special mass of cells. At first, I looked like a tube, then I twisted, turned, and gradually the creation of my chambers and my neighboring veins began. Together with the other cells of the body, we developed to serve as different parts, such as nerves, skin, cartilage, muscles, and so on. And the cells which make me up are very specially programmed. When they reached a certain number and mass on your twenty-second day, they were commanded to march, and only God knows for how long. When all my cells contract together to beat, you feel it as your pulse. Though I operate in your body, Peter, you do not think much about my beats, but when you run fast, I just have to beat faster for your legs require more blood. Only then, Peter, do you notice me, but you do not give me a second thought anyway. You are so heedless, as if I will carry out this duty forever and will never get tired. Let us admit that is not so unusual for a young man, but the worst is you do not ever think of who blessed you with such a gift, and that really makes me sad. Nowadays you go to high school, and there they occasionally talk about me in biology lessons. Peter, you are not to blame, actually-teachers talk about me as if I were a simple pump. However, you cannot even move a finger if I do not pump blood into your brain. But today, I will let you know that I am not just a simple mass of flesh. I am going to tell you today that you should care about me both physically and spiritually, otherwise, you will truly regret it. I am just a friend, warning you about the bitter truth; you still have a chance to make it up.
All the cells, the building blocks of your body (maybe 100 trillion of them) need me for their nutrition, breathing, digestion, waste disposal, and to carry out their particular duties. You wonder why? Well, all their needs are met thanks to my being created to work ceaselessly. This is why I start working before any other organ at the embryonic stage. Even I do not know how long exactly I will work; sometimes, in spite of being in sound health, the appointed hour comes and I leave my duty obeying the divine command. For the most part, the Angel of Death does not tell me to stop for no reason-he somehow uses an apparent cause. There are so many causes to make me leave my duty, in such an age where accidents, bad habits, and suicides are tremendously high.
In fact, even I marvel at how I work. I am equipped with certain precautions against blood losses which occur as a result of injuries, but if the blood loss is not made up for and the bleeding is not stopped, I may get tired and stop functioning after a certain time. I can be easily affected by certain types of poisoning. This does not matter much, but what really upsets me is your living irregularly, unhealthy eating habits, inactivity, laziness, and especially your leading a stressful life quarrelling with everyone. I endure these for a while, but sometimes when I cannot take it anymore, I just quit or pretend to quit in order to draw your attention. Right after that, you have people screaming, calling the doctor in panic, demanding pills, adrenalin or heart massageâ¦ All of these are fine my dear, but why on earth do you wait until I become like that! Listen, Peter, I am telling you again, it is you who does me the greatest harm. So do not be offended if I one day get tired and quit! You just keep gulping down fatty foods, my downstairs neighbor, the stomach, keeps complaining that you are filling it up too much. When it is filled up, it starts putting pressure on me naturally. Havenât you heard about the hadith counseling people to leave one third of their stomach empty and rise from the table before they are full? I can understand the vegetables, but what about the fast food, fried things, and other unhealthy stuff you eat? Be careful, you will have to pay for it before long, and it will be too late. Well, one has the right to benefit from the blessings in this world, but one should know where to stop. If you go on like that, my valves will be disabled by fat and my main arteries will be clogged. As for my coronary arteries, they are already created narrow and they can be clogged in a short time and lead to a heart failure.
You are just a couch potato lying before the TV all day without moving at all. I would not be surprised if you started going to the corner shop by car. If only you did exercise for a little part of the day. Some of your friends do the daily prayers and kill two birds with one stone. They fulfill their duty to their Creator and relieve their hearts with the bodily exercise. In addition, their hearts are at ease thanks to their faith. Another welcome relief for us is their fasting for a whole month once a year. Staying hungry for a certain part of the day comforts me and gives me a chance to burn some fats.
The muscle tissue which makes up my main structure is designed as an intricate ball of fibers and so I am able to function properly without changing my shape too much as I contract and relax. The surface of my walls is wrapped up in a double layer in order to prevent harm from rubbing against the ribs, which are set around me as a protective cage. Also, there is a special liquid between the two layers of the membrane and this lowers the friction even further. Câmon Peter! Who can arrange so many precautions so splendidly?
Like car engines with four cylinders, I also work like a pump with four chambers. My upper chambers are called atriums. The one on the right takes in the waste-rich venous blood, and the one on the left takes in the oxygen-rich arterial blood. The muscular strength of these chambers is relatively low, but it is good enough to pass the blood they take to the lower chambers. As for my lower chambers, named ventricles, they have thicker walls and stronger muscles. They are given the ability to contract and pump blood with great pressure. Moreover, the lower chamber on the left has even stronger muscles and thicker walls since this very chamber enables me to send blood to the entire body with great pressure and speed. Thanks to the large vein named the aorta, I send blood to each organ in the required amount and at the right speed. Precise timing is vital for my four chambers to contract successively, to open of the valves at the exact moment they should, and to send blood to the neighboring chamber or to the two main arteries. The closing of the valves also requires perfect timing to prevent the blood from flowing back. The coordination of this timing mechanism is obtained through the regular production of electricity by the atrioventricular bundle. If there is something wrong with the timing of my valves, or if they cannot close properly because they are blocked with fat or calcification and so let blood leak, you diagnose this situation as a disease. As a precaution against blood flowing backwards through the valves between the atriums and ventricles under heavy pressure, some cords are tightly fixed under them. You are not aware of any of these, but I keep working even when you are asleep. Naturally, I may change my speed at different times, according to what you do. While you are asleep, I work at an easier tempo. I work faster than normal while you are running or doing heavy exercise and I send the necessary amount of blood to every organ. My energy source? Well, the fuels I mostly make use of are fatty acids, lactic acid, and sugars. In addition, thanks to my special metabolism, I never get tired. There is only a very short period of rest of one tenth of a second between every contraction and relaxation I make. The stimulating command must come with perfect precision so that all my muscles start to contract and relax simultaneously and so that I can generate an efficient pumping force. Actually, I am not quite sure how this timing is arranged during different activities. A tiny automatic center on me produces electrical signals; the activities of upsetting and then resetting the ion balance inside and outside the cells in order to produce these signals is carried out with reactions happening in a time as short as one thousandth of a second. Even though these cells make me work with the electricity they produce, I am not really independent. The foremost among the factors that affects my functioning is the nerves from the brain. Therefore, the fear, anger, and sadness you experience upset my functioning as well. This must be why people have taken me as the center of emotions; although anger and sadness take place in the brain, I was located as the emotional center, as the effect surfaced in me.
Peter, I will ask you a simple question: is there some engineer who made the TV set you lie before? Are there people who write the articles in the magazine you are holding or who lay out the letters and pictures? There are some agents right? So, more perfectly than all of these, should there not be One who has created me and my system of blood vessels, and then placed me in your chest cavity? Well, it is high time you switched off that TV set. Now Peter, just as I fulfill my duty regularly to keep you alive, you should also spare just ten minutes to pray for and praise your Lord Who has created your body so perfectly. In the meantime, I will have found a chance to get rid of the strain you put me under because of your hurry and stress.
Within these few pages, I have probably told you only a thousandth of my splendid structure and the precision of my functioning. Neither I, nor physicians have the proper knowledge to explain all about me completely. So, my friend Peter, you need to learn to say, âHow beautifully it has been made,â instead of âHow beautiful it is.â