Monday, April 7, 2008

Man with suicide victim's heart takes own life

He even married the donor's widow after the transplant 12 years ago.

A man who received a heart transplant 12 years ago and later married the donor's widow died the same way the donor did, authorities said: of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

No foul play was suspected in 69-year-old Sonny Graham's death at his Vidalia, Ga., home, investigators said. He was found Tuesday in a utility building in his backyard with a single shotgun wound to the throat, said Greg Harvey, a special agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Graham, who was director of the Heritage golf tournament at Sea Pines from 1979 to 1983, was on the verge of congestive heart failure in 1995 when he got a call that a heart was available in Charleston.

That heart was from Terry Cottle, 33, who had shot himself, Berkeley County Coroner Glenn Rhoad said.

Grateful for his new heart, Graham began writing letters to the donor's family to thank them. In January 1997, Graham met his donor's widow, Cheryl Cottle, then 28, in Charleston.

"I felt like I had known her for years," Graham told The (Hilton Head) Island Packet for a story in 2006. "I couldn't keep my eyes off her. I just stared."

In 2001, Graham bought a home for Cottle and her four children in Vidalia. Three years later, they were married after Graham retired from his job as a plant manager for Hargray Communications in Hilton Head.

Some believe memories are stored in organs other than the brain.

The question has been around for years: does the heart feel emotion or does the brain simply make it seem as though it does? The question arises anew after years of transplanting the heart or other organs into human beings and noticing some changes in the recipient. After having had heart or lung transplants some recipients have noticed profound changes in their personalities. For some, there is an overwhelming need to consume quantities of Mexican foods when that type of cuisine was never a favorite. For others, a sudden love for football, when sports were previously hated, comes into play.

How can these phenomena be explained? Can the heart actually feel, think, remember, care, hurt or hope? The answer could lie in the way the human body stores memories and feelings. Although some people scoff at the idea that the heart can carry forth memories of it's previous owner to the recipient others think it could be possible, but can't explain the phenomenon.

It becomes extremely technical to explain how the heart could possibly retain memories. Cells which hold memory and feeling find their way to the brain for storage but beforehand they pass throughout the body including the heart. Does a portion of the memories and feelings get first deposited into the heart?

Some studies have been done to try to resolve this phenomena without much satisfaction. Some experts claim that the reason the recipient begins displaying some personality traits of the deceased is that all live cells possess a memory function. As cells travel through the blood stream some deposit in various organs of the body. These cells, even after death and transplantation, recall certain aspects of human traits. - ac

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