You'll never view your spleen the same way again...
You know what's amazing? That people can remember to get in front of the television in time for Desperate Housewives, but forget to take their blood pressure medicine every day. They can run off Derek Jeter's batting average for the past five seasons, but couldn't tell you what their own cholesterol level is. Truth is, I'm probably just as guilty of these misplaced priorities as anyone. But just because everyone seems to be more concerned about the latest iPod instead of the latest medication that could prolong their lives doesn't make it ok. Because while it's true that there's no comparison between the entertainment values of Lost and liver function tests, when it comes to actual importance, pop-cultures doesn't hold a candle to a person's health.
I don't have the solution that will make people care about watching their diet as much as they care about watching the big game. Believe me, if I did I'd be on the cover of Time Magazine and working on my acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize. But I do think that there are ways to make learning about health as fun as reading the latest issue of US Weekly. (Well, almost as fun!) My first attempt at bridging the gap between medicine and entertainment is this article: "If Your Organs Were Celebrities".
Yes, I'm well aware that we're quickly approaching the "way-too-weird" territory with that title. But I think that if you give this piece a chance you'll end up finding it both educational and entertaining. You see, only a small percentage of the population can tell you what the function of the spleen is. Yet millions upon millions are all too familiar with what Simon Cowell does on a weekly basis. Hopefully by uncovering the link between the two, I'll be able to help a lot of people learn more about how their body works. Well, at least that's the noble idea behind the piece. The verdict's still out as to whether there's any way to make your own anatomy as compelling as Grey's Anatomy. But you gotta admit, you really don't know what the spleen does, do you?
The Brain - Benjamin Linus from Lost
So what do your brain and the island's creepy pseudo-villain have in common? Well, you know how Ben manages to manipulate every single character he comes in contact with and is basically the driving force behind everything that happens on the show? That's basically the same relationship that your brain has with your body. The function of the brain isn't limited to just thinking, intelligence, or memory. Those extremely complicated functions only scrape the surface of what that five pound blob of jello can do. Basically, it's in control of everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. Every breath you take, every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take... I think I can quit quoting The Police. You get the idea.
The thing I really like about Ben is that he manipulates people by letting them think they're the one in control. This false sense of being in the driver's seat causes his pawns to let down their guard. Once that's accomplished, Ben is able to plant his seed and slowly convince them to do his bidding. By the time everything is said and done, Ben has actually convinced them that his plan is their own idea. Pretty clever right? Well don't laugh now, because in this analogy, you're the pawn. That's right, if you think you're actually in control of your brain, you're kidding yourself. Based on your level of stress, sleep, emotions, etc. your brain can play some pretty strange tricks on you, and you don't have to be residing in a mental institution for this to happen. I've seen more than a few patients come in with severe physical symptoms that ended up being nothing more than their brain trying to process a stressful situation. The brain is also the driving force behind tobacco and drug addictions and why it's so difficult to quit. You may really want to stop smoking your way to lung cancer, but your brain wants the nicotine even more. The lesson in all of this: Respect your brain, keep it healthy, and never, ever trust Ben.
The Heart - Newman
The heart is considered by many to be the "premiere" organ. Certainly no other part of the body gets referenced as much as your ticker. Athletes always talk about how they've "got heart", and countless numbers of love songs have been written about it. I think Phil Collins could probably fill a double-cd album with his "heart" songs alone. ("You'll be in my Heart", "Two Hearts", "Hold on My Heart", etc.) With all the hype surrounding the heart, you're probably surprised to find out that I've chosen Seinfeld's Newman to represent this prestigious organ. What could it possibly have in common with this broccoli-hating overweight mailman?
Well just like Newman delivers mail to the residents of Manhattan, your heart is responsible for delivering oxygen and nutrients to every cell in your body. When you break it down, the heart's basically just a pump to move blood from one part of your body to the next. That may seem strange considering how much fanfare the organ receives, but it's actually one of the least complex parts of your body. Think about it, we can replace its valves and have even created the "artificial heart". You've never heard of the "mechanical liver", have you? Anyway, despite its relative simplicity, there's no denying that the heart is one of your most vital parts. This is definitely where the Newman analogy falls apart. Because if your heart delivered blood with the same unreliability as Seinfeld's arch-nemesis, you'd quickly find yourself in the same situation as George Costanza's fiance.
The Lungs - Martha Stewart
It's common knowledge that your lungs allow you to breathe. But what some people may not know is that when you break the lung down to its smallest and most simple parts, it's basically comprised of thin membranes which allow for the exchange of gas. Without delving into anything too scientific, that pretty much sums up what the lungs do - exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide. It seems like a fairly simple function for one of our most vital organs, and in many ways it is. But if you don't exchange the two gasses in the right ratio, or if you start exchanging a gas that shouldn't enter the body, then you start getting into trouble...
Which brings us to the celebrity representative for the lungs, the Queen of the stock exchange herself, Martha Stewart. As a big-time stock investor, Martha knows how powerful trading a not-so-good stock for a good one can be. She also knows all too well about what happens when you do the wrong type of exchange... I think we'll leave it at that and move onto the next organ/celebrity duo.
The Liver - Will Smith
The heart is a delivery system. The lungs are an exchange system. But the liver... Well, there's just no way to sum it up in only two words. That's because the liver does a little bit of everything. It stores glycogen for energy, it produces a whole host of enzymes, and it metabolizes drugs in addition to other things. It's the body's jack of all trades - kinda like Will Smith. You see, Will started off in the music business, winning a Grammy for his work with DJ Jazzy Jeff. He then quickly made his way to prime-time TV with the hit-series, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and is now a major movie star. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a single celebrity who has had so much success across the board. Yup, Will Smith certainly does it all - just like the liver!
The Spleen - Simon Cowell
In addition to being a huge jerk, Simon Cowell helps America vote for their Idol by praising the good contestants and berating the bad. If he finds you acceptable, you can almost be assured of going to the next round. If he starts hurling insults, then you could very well find yourself eliminated. In some ways, you could say he acts similarly to a filter. And wouldn't you know it, that's basically what the spleen is! The spleen's primary purpose is to filter the blood and remove old cells. Conceptually, the spleen is comprised of a series of mesh. Newer red blood cells are able to squeeze their way through the openings and return to the bloodstream. Worn out red blood cells, a.k.a. Sanjaya, find themselves stuck in the mesh and are subsequently destroyed. In addition, the spleen's filtration system also helps out the immune system by trapping nasty encapsulated bacteria that can lead to some pretty serious infections. Certainly anyone who's listened to William Hung's album knows how important it is to have a system like that in place.
The GI Tract - Paris Hilton
When you eat food it starts out delicious. Then it makes its way through the GI tract and gets all the nutrients and minerals absorbed out of it. By the time your food has completed it's journey through your intestines, it's a rather unsightly mess that nobody really cares to spend much time around.
This whole process, by which our bodies acquire all the materials and energy that allow us to function and live, reminds me a lot of Paris Hilton. You see she started out full of potential with every privilege and opportunity a person could ask for. She then proceeded leech off her parents for all they were worth, partying her life away. Now after years of boozing and indiscretion, the hotel princess has become a total mess. Of course the analogy stops there. Because while we may want to flush the final product of our GI tract as quickly as possible, the media continually serves us a constant barrage of Paris Hilton. And honestly, I'm not sure which of the two I find more unappealing...
The Kidneys - Tony Soprano
What do the kidneys and Tony Soprano have in common? Well, they're both involved in waste management.
...On the surface.
But just like any fan of the show knows that there's more to Tony than garbage trucks, there's also more to the kidney than simply making urine. The kidneys play an extremely important role in regulating your blood pressure, and of course there's the major impact they have on regulating the delicate balance of water and salt in your body. They also produce erythropoetin, which helps produce blood, as well as Vitamin D, which keeps your bones healthy. Of course there's always some difference between your organs and celebrities, and this one is totally in your favor. Unlike in the Sopranos, if one of your kidneys gets whacked, you always have a second one for backup. After seeing all the different roles the kidneys play in your health, that's something we should all be thankful for.
Donald Trump - The Gonads
I'm going to try to keep this one as PG as possible... In his reality-show, The Apprentice, Donald Trump seeks to find a worth candidate to take on a leading role in his company and be mentored in the ways of real estate and business. You could say that in some ways, "The Donald" is creating a copy of himself. This analogy might be a little bit of a stretch, but it's the best one I could come up with to relate to the reproductive organs of the body, who's purpose is (what else?) to reproduce another human being. I think the whole process is pretty self-explanatory and if you can't figure out exactly what I'm talking about, you should probably have a chat with your parents, as opposed to getting this information from my website. I'll now move onto my last body part/celebrity combo as I'm sure we'd all like to stop thinking about any possible connection between our private parts and Donald Trump.
Bill Gates - The Musculoskeletal System
Ok, this last one isn't an organ per se, but I did think it was worth mentioning. Basically every function that the organs above carry out would be utterly worthless without the musculoskeletal system. Do we really care that our liver is breaking down glycogen for energy if we can't do anything with that energy. The musculoskeletal system is the part of our body that allows us to do things. Walking, eating, driving a car, hugging our kids, typing out this article - it's all carried out by our muscles and bones. I saved this system for last, because I wanted to bring home a point. (As if this article wasn't cheesy enough!) All the celebrities I've listed above are very well known for entertaining us in TV shows, movies, music, etc. I'm not discounting the importance of such things or trying to say that these celebs haven't done some humanitarian work of their own, but I don't believe any of them have done something of the magnitude of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (Pretty ironic that "the muscles" are represented by a computer geek, isn't it?) Here's a famous and successful person who didn't just sit back and be selfishly content with his fame and success. He took his incredible situation and did something with it. You can hate on Microsoft all you want, but the billions upon billions that Gates has donated to advancing healthcare and education, and ending poverty, are probably the single most influential act by any modern-day celebrity. Most actors, singers, or atheletes don't come close to making what Gates donated over the entire course of their careers, but no matter how large or small the act, it is nice to see people give something back. Thankfully Gates is not alone as there were plenty of other people I could have listed in this spot; Oprah Winfrey, and Kevin Garnett to name a few. The key thing to remember is that we all have a musculoskeletal system, which means we all can do something.
Don't let yours go to waste.