Valentine’s Day

All You Need is Love

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” – Charles M. Schulz, Cartoonist

It’s Valentine’s Day (almost)! And since HemaBlog is about anything to do with blood and hemophilia, why not include the heart? The heart is associated with our emotions–probably because we feel it beat fast when we are afraid… or in love. I confess when I met actor Paul Newman, my heart rate shot up to about 200 bpm! And I told him so!

Here are some fascinating facts about this important organ*:

  1. The heart beats about 115,000 times and pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood every day.
  2. An electrical system (a cardiac conduction system) controls the rhythm of your heart.
  3. The heart can continue beating even when it’s disconnected from the body.
  4. The first open-heart surgery occurred in 1893. It was performed by Daniel Hale Williams, who was one of the few black cardiologists in the United States at the time.
  5. The earliest known case of heart disease was identified in the remains of a 3,500-year-old Egyptian mummy.
  6. The fairy fly, a kind of wasp, has the smallest heart of any living creature.
  7. The American pygmy shrew is the smallest mammal, but has the fastest heartbeat at 1,200 beats per minute (which actually felt like mine when I met Paul Newman).
  8. The giraffe has a lopsided heart, with their left ventricle being thicker than the right. This is because the left side has to get blood up the giraffe’s long neck to reach their brain.
  9. Most heart attacks happen on Mondays.
  10. The beating sound of your heart is caused by the valves of the heart opening and closing.
  11. Broken heart syndrome has similar symptoms as a heart attack. But a heart attack is from heart disease and broken heart syndrome  is caused by a rush of stress hormones from an emotional or physical stress event.
  12. Heart cells stop dividing, which means heart cancer is extremely rare.

And where did the Valentine shape come from, that represents the heart? It’s believed to come from the siplhium’s seedpod. It looks like the modern Valentine’s heart. The seedpod’s role with love and sex may have been what first helped associate the symbol. 

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Valentine’s Day with the Most Famous Carrier

I went to see the movie “Young Victoria” yesterday, which chronicles the most famous hemophilia carrier’s 1837 ascension to the throne as just a girl of 18. It also tells of her meeting with and eventually love for Prince Albert of Belgium. Lavishly filmed, I felt as though I had gorged on Godivas, taking in the costumes, scenery and gold. I thought the performances by Emily Blunt as Victoria and Rupert Friend as Albert were understated and well done. It was a very enjoyable movie. I was surprised it was such a love story, and the timing was perfect as it was a day before Valentine’s Day.

We always seem to think of Britain’s longest reigning monarch as a blimpy old woman, but here, she is beautiful, confident and headstrong. As you watch the courtship of the Princess and Prince, you marvel at how much they loved one another (by all accounts they truly did), and also by their tremendous wealth and privilege: Victoria cannot even walk down the stairs by herself, lest she fall. She always needs to hold someone’s hand (she abolishes that practice when she becomes queen). Despite the young love, and their wealth, one thing remains unsaid but we all know it happens: Victoria and Albert eventually have a child with hemophilia, Leopold.

I watched the ornate movie, and the tender love, and felt so sad for them! Like us, this young couple would have a child who suffers, but unlike us, there was no treatment. It was really poignant to see this beautiful young couple, blindly in love, happy, not knowing what fate had in store for them.

Victoria and Albert had nine children: three girls who were carriers and of course, Leopold. Eventually, she passed hemophilia on to the Russian, Spanish and German royal families. This is why hemophilia is called the “royal disease.” She had 42 grandchildren!

Albert died at age 42, after 22 years of marriage. The movie ends with a title which revealed that Victoria had his clothes laid out every morning for the next 40 years, in his memory. She forever wore black following his death. A movie worth seeing, especially if you have hemophilia in the family.

Great Book I Just Read
Child of the Dark by Carolina Maria De Jesus

This may quite possibly be the best book I’ll read all year. I don’t think I’ll ever read another book like it.

Carolina Maria De Jesus (1914-1977) lived in the favela, the slums of Sao Paulo, Brazil, surviving only one day at a time by picking up paper and scrap metal and selling it. Intelligent and single, she kept a journal, which became this book. She writes so much about hunger, the horror of slum life, rummaging through garbage to find something to feed her three children, and always hoping for a better life. Her insights are amazing and her description of the slum is simple but painfully portrayed. I couldn’t put this book down. I myself have been through slums in Central America, Brazil, Kenya and India. I often think that we could not live one day in the shoes of the poor, and after reading this book, I know it is true.

As amazing as her journal writing is, a co-author provides an epilogue: what happened after her book is published. Caroline, illegitimate and poor, rockets to fame as she becomes Brazil’s best-selling author. This book is a must read! Four stars.

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