Prince Frederick, MD – Valentine’s Day seems like a pretty positive day—a day to express affection. In reality it’s as complex the human heart—the vital organ that serves as its symbol. The day’s origins go back centuries when the Feast of Lupercalia was observed. Lupercalia was the celebration of the coming spring. The festivities included “fertility rites.” The quick explanation of fertility rites is that the rite is a “reenactment of the reproductive processes.” That would go a long way in explaining why in today’s civilized world we simply mail cards to one another. That custom started gaining momentum when church authorities decided to observe the Feast of St. Valentine. There were actually two men named Valentine. Both were ordered to die by a Roman emperor. The church recognizes both as martyrs.

The familiar scalloped-shaped heart made its first appearance during the early 14th century.

In our modern-day word, the practice of literally giving one’s heart to someone has become rather common. The donor, of course, no longer has a physical presence—except, of course for the heart. Last November, Reuters reported there are some risks involved when heart transplant recipients receive the heart of a member of the opposite sex. According to data from the United Network of Organ Sharing, the recipient has a 15 percent higher risk of death when he or she receives a heart from someone of the opposite sex. “The cause is not clear but it could be due to size differences,” Reuters reported. For reasons unknown, men given a female’s heart were more likely to experience organ rejection.

In 2012, the regionally focused news web site My Northwest told of a transplant that might have affected the recipient’s mindset. A 50-year-old Washington State man who had a heart attack at age 29, double bypass surgery at 31, followed by placement of a stent, internal pacemaker/defibrillator and a mechanical device to make his left ventricle function, was placed on a heart transplant waiting list by University of Washington doctors. Subsequently, a heart was found. The donor was a 22-year-old female from Alaska. The young lady, who had been very athletic, died of a brain aneurysm. The recipient later met the young donor’s family and a bond was established. According to My Northwest, the recipient later admitted that while he felt his personality has not drastically changed, he felt his attitude had.

Gary Schwartz, a University of Arizona psychology professor, told My Northwest that he has seen more than 70 transplant patients who displayed “eerie similarities to the heart’s previous owner.”

Whether you have your original heart or that of a previous owner, celebrate this Valentine’s Day with care.

Contact Marty Madden at