Even though doctors and scientists are working every day to solve vexing medical problems, there are still numerous illnesses that have no cure. But today, we can cross one of them off the list. Because two real doctors have finally figured out how to treat a centaur having a heart attack.
Centaurs, in case you’re not up on your classical mythology OR your Japanese erotica, are half-horse, half-human creatures that have fascinated humans for thousands of years. The most famous centaur is probably Chiron, seen below teaching a young Achilles how to play the lute:
(If you thought your childhood music teacher was a jerk, at least yours wasn’t constantly crapping everywhere.)
So, why heart attacks? If you’ll indulge in a bit of imaginary creature anatomy, a centaur is two living things in one. On the top is the upper half of a human’s body, where all our organs are. And on the bottom is a horse’s body, where all of its organs are. This would mean, logically, that a centaur would have two sets of organs.
And this is what inspired Dr. Fred Wu, a New England-based specialist in congenital heart disease, to pose the following question on Twitter:
In other words, if a horse-person were having a heart attack, where would you put the defibrillator? Where the human heart is, or where the horse heart is? It’s quite the conundrum!
Another doctor, Eric Funk, took some time out of his busy schedule of saving lives to offer up a solution: try the human heart, and if that doesn’t work, try the horse heart.
Dr. Wu disagreed. A human heart is much smaller than a horse’s–ta typical human heart weighs between 0.5 to 0.8 pounds, while a horse’s weighs from 9 to 11 lbs. In a centaur’s body, the horse heart would be much bigger than the human heart, and responsible for pumping a lot more blood. Thus, the horse heart is where to start.
He also speculated that a centaur’s human heart might just be a secondary heart, like the hagfish has.
Dr. Funk had a different opinion. A centaur might have two sets of organs, but it’s only got one brain–the human one. If the centaur’s human heart pumps blood to the brain, that’s the one to save.
And if this kills the centaur’s horse half? Well, too bad.
The doctors had arrived at the central question of their debate: which centaur heart is more important, the human heart, or the horse one? Dr. Wu argued for Team Horse Heart.
Photo Credit: @FredWuMDWhile Dr. Funk was Team Human Heart.
Furthering the hagfish comparison, Dr. Wu posted a very complicated chart that I’m not nearly smart enough to understand.
The conversation then turned to the next question: how would you actually treat the centaur? Horse defibrillators are much stronger than the ones used on humans, so you couldn’t use the same machine for both hearts.
At this point, a rural emergency room nurse named “K” joined the discussion, and together with Dr. Wu came up with a solution: use a human defibrillator on the human heart, and if that doesn’t work, switch to internal defibrillators, cut the horse chest open and zap away.
And Dr. Wu approved! Mission accomplished!
These findings will no doubt be published in the New England Journal of Medicine any day now. But in the meantime, the discussion moved on to other centaur organs, like the lungs.
It’s exciting to live in a time when so many breakthroughs are being made in centaur health. But the best way to survive a heart attack is by not having one in the first place. As always, prevention is more effective than any treatment, so if you’re a centaur, skip the deep-fried hay.