The Perfect Heart

by Humphrey Price

My grandmother was dying, with maybe six months to live. Her old heart was failing. I was pretty torn up about it, because we had always been so close. While growing up, I could confide with her in things I would never reveal to my parents, and she would listen and understand. In many ways, we were kindred spirits. Grandma was on the wait list for a transplant but considered high risk because of her age and general health, so it was unlikely she would be offered a heart in time.

I was determined to do something about it. To give her the best chance, I wanted a pristine heart, not a used one, so I contacted Dr. Aften Skinner, the world’s foremost researcher for creating lab-grown organs who had just opened up a call for candidates for a revolutionary new procedure. She was willing to provide the first lab-grown human heart for an experimental transplant but needed a donor for the stem cells. My grandmother’s cells were old and not a great source. I assured her that I would find a donor.

My next move was to consult with a friend who is a professional magician and a master of prestidigitation. She trained me well, and I spent countless hours practicing to become proficient to execute my plan.

I flew to the Vatican early to make sure I would be in the front of the queue for the Papal communion on Easter Sunday. I figured if anyone could perform the miracle of transubstantiation, it would be the Supreme Pontiff. When I received the wafer from the Pope himself, I palmed the Eucharist as I simulated placing it in my mouth. Drinking from the chalice was the tricky part. With misdirection and sleight of hand, I slipped a custom-made clear plastic device in my mouth to capture the wine into a sterile compartment. When the Pope moved on to the next parishioner, I used my legerdemain skills to remove the receptacle with the wine and place it in a concealed cold container along with the purloined consecrated host. Technically, this was an act of desecration, a grave sacrilege, but this was required for my plan.

Doctor Skinner was amazed at the purity of the samples. The bread and the wine had indeed been transformed into corporeal human body cells and blood. “The tissue sample is amazing!” she proclaimed. “It’s incredibly uniform, and the cells are youthful, like they were just grown yesterday. The blood is immaculate with plenty of white blood cells that have DNA. Where did this come from?”

I said, “I’m not at liberty to reveal the source, but I can assure you that the donor is a godly man, truly a saint.”

“I am able to get flawless stem cells from this material, and I’ve never seen such clean DNA. There are no corrupted segments or bad genes that I can find anywhere. It looks like the donor is of Middle-Eastern origin. The blood type is AB, as is your grandmother’s, so this will be a great match.”

The stem cells were applied to a hi-tech armature and nurtured as they multiplied and specialized into the complex cell types specified in the DNA instructions. Doctor Skinner was able to grow a strong beating heart in a matter of a few months.

Grandma was still hanging on, and the transplant went well. A month later, she was back home, playing bridge, and digging in her garden. It was a miraculous turn of events, and I was so happy, because ever since I was a small child, Grandma always told me that she wanted to have the heart of Jesus.



Humphrey Price is a space systems engineer at NASA JPL who has contributed to robotic missions to the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. His stories range from highly realistic hard science fiction to science fantasy. Info on his writings can be found at

Philosophy Note:

If the Catholic transubstantiation of the Eucharist during communion is real, and the bread and wine actually are transformed into real human cells and blood, then as a scientist, this begs the question of, “Well, what can you do with that?” This story presents one such possibility.

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