The team name for our hike up Apsen this weekend is Liver Lovers Unite! It’s also the name of the silly tumblr I started last year to amuse Derek. (Which has mostly turned into a repository of cat videos and things that amuse me, but I still throw in some math for good measure.) Derek has threatened to get a vanity plate for his car that says LVR LVR, because even though his birth given liver has gone up to that pathology lab in the
sky hospital, he loved that liver. Even as it became apparent that it would soon fail he stood up for his liver, always marveling at its ability to keep him alive despite its diminished capacity.
So why should you love your liver? It’s got a killer backstory.
You may know the story of Prometheus, who was punished by the gods for sharing the magic of fire and the skill of metalwork with humans. He was taken to the Caucasus mountains by Zeus, chained to a rock with unbreakable adamanite* chains, where every night his liver was pecked out by giant eagle, only to have it regenerate overnight. Prometheus endured this torture until he met the requirements for release set forth by Zeus: the immortal Chiron the Centaur agreed to die for him, and Heracles killed the eagle and released him from the rock. [source] Was this myth the inspiration for what would eventually lead to scientists figuring out that living liver donors were possible? Maybe!
If the heart is the poetic source of passion and love, and the brain the Vulcan source of logic, where does that leave the liver? In many cultures, the liver is the organ synonymous with courage:
In Japan the liver is associated with courage—for example kimo ga suwaru, or to sit on your liver, means to be brave or self-assured. So a more literal translation of kimodameshi would be to “prove your guts.” [source]
The Zulu word for liver is bindi which also means: courage, spirit, boldness; determination, firmness; sternness, as of a resolute or desperate character; heart for doing anything courageous or cruel.
Derek and I have learned that most people don’t know that much about their livers, that even though it’s one of the vital organs, it tends to get overlooked and even willfully abused. The video below does a nice job of describing what the liver is responsible for, and how it keeps us alive.
So love your liver, take care of it, give it the respect it deserves. The best part about the liver is that you really don’t need to treat it with kid gloves, it’s a super bad ass organ and it will perform its appointed duties even if you remove or damage a substantial portion of it. But, it is not indestructible and trust us when we tell you, you don’t want to be put in a position where you need a new one.
*It’s hard for me to not make the connection that a) I have a masters degree in metalsmithing and b) I share my name with a Marvel superhero that has the fictional metal adamantium fused to his skeleton. Something that can only be done to a mutant that has the ability to rapidly heal. COINCIDENCE??? Yes. Yes, that is a coincidence.