Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Vital Bonds Will Challenge You

I had just about determined I would not watch Vital Bonds, CBC-TV's new documentary on organ donors.
That's because I had a dear friend who did not long survive his heart transplant and after a decade ago  memory is still painful to me.
Then curiosity got the best of me and I thought I'd watch the first 10 minutes.
Well, the next thing I realized was I'd watched the entire hour --it's that well made, an often brilliant pastiche of interviews with survivors and donors' families stitched in with min-profiles of the doctors and nurses who seem to toil around the clock.
You can check it out on CBC-TV's The Nature Of Things Thursday night at 8.
This one could have degenerated into a welter of statistics.
Hey, I go way back with NOT and I remember a similarly riveting documentary at least a decade ago directed by David Tucker that looked at the inner workings of a big city heart and stroke unit.
Now it's director Niobe Thompson's chance  to weave threads of true stories into one cohesive whole and keep us watching through all those disparate themes.
I knew in advance Thompson might be up to it based on such docus he'd made like Tipping Point: Age Of The Oil Sands and The Perfect Runner.
Thompson has the ability to personalize a subject and here he concentrates on intense close-ups of the faces of people desperately needing transplants or they will surely die.
This one could have degenerated into a welter of statistics.
Instead we are instantly engrossed in the study of Lee whose every gasp of air is difficult.
And there is a distressed baby Harlow, a mere two-year old, whose young parents understand if she doesn't get a heart transplant very quickly she will expire.
And surely one theme is how many patients die before an organ becomes available.
And what about 28-year old Matthew who is brain dead after a terrible accident and now his parents must decide whether to permit his organs to be harvested.
The excruciatingly painful decisions by the parents is captured here in all its awfulness--they are certainly brave.
And we learn one donor can save up to eight lives and enhance 75 lives.
And we're told 246 Canadians died waiting for that elusive transplant.
Set mostly at an Alberta hospital, it shows how transplants east of Quebec cannot be accepted simply because the time of air transport is over five hours.
The strangest scenes are those of hope and we see if science can truly clone organs --the answer is not yet but the research is fascinating.
At the Texas Heart Institute we see researchers "washing" cadavers of their living cells
and using stem cells to fill the matrix of connective tissue.
And clinical trials with human patients using the re-grown human hearts may be just five years in the future.
At the end we see who gets heart transplants and how they have fared --I can't reveal names here.
In other words Vital Bonds takes us all on a vital journey of growth and renewal.
MY RATING: ****/

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