People

‘Breath of Life’ Opera Bridges the Medical and Arts Communities


By Britni R. McAshan | October 5, 2015

Todd Frazier has been involved in the happenings of the Texas Medical Center since he was a child. His father, O.H. “Bud” Frazier, M.D., has been a heart surgeon in the medical center for over 45 years and Todd has been everywhere with him, from the operating room to his lab.

Today, Todd is the director of the Center for Performing Art Medicine at Houston Methodist Hospital. Because of his exposure to the heart transplant field and his musical background, Todd was inspired to compose an opera documenting the journey heart transplant patients, families and doctors take.

In his youth, Todd met several patients, surgeons, residents and nurses and realized that in order for something like a heart transplant to work, all of these people are forced to take a leap of faith.

“My father performed heart transplants more than anything and that process was inspiring to me because the fact that you can just sew someone’s heart in and bring new life was just incredible to me,” said Todd. “It was a leap of faith, science, anatomy and had a very palpable spiritual side to it.”

The opera, “Breath of Life” tells the stories of those involved in the process of a heart transplant and what they are going through. The story is based around a man who is in need of a heart transplant, though he does not feel that he deserves a new heart and, essentially, a second chance at life. Through receiving a heart, it is obvious that someone else has to lose theirs in a very tragic way. The guilt that many heart transplant recipients feel is not uncommon.

Brian received a heart transplant from Houston Methodist Hospital in 2008 after having heart complications his entire life. When he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in 2004, he was told he needed a transplant.

“When I was first told I needed a transplant, I was totally against it,” said Brian. “First of all, I have no problem going to join my son [who died in 2000], and secondly, I didn’t want a heart to be taken from someone and given to me that could be used on someone younger than me–obviously if I could trade places with my son today, I would.”

Todd shares the stories of the donor’s family trying to make sense of what has just happened to their daughter and if organ donation is the right thing to do. He also shows a Japanese resident who is struggling with her own spiritual beliefs about taking a heart from a living being and if it will impact her afterlife.

In the second act, there is a moment when the heart has been taken out of the patient and his blood has been stopped to receive the new heart. The donor and the recipient share a moment together that is suspended in time.

“The scene humanizes interface between the two people,” said Todd. “They get to know one another and only in that interaction, the donor charging the patient to live out their life, does the heart start to beat again.”

In the end, everyone has taken a leap of faith to bring new life to not only the patient, but also the donor, because her heart lives on in him.

About 10 years ago, Todd began developing “Breath of Life” in an effort to bring the medical center and the arts community together. In the process he met Gerald Dolter, the Director of Texas Tech music theater.

After years of collaboration, Todd and Dolter were able to bring “Breath of Life” to Texas Tech. The opera was performed twice this September.

“My hope with the opera was to bring this extraordinary story of advancements in science and the human condition being challenged out of the medical center and bring it to the general public,” said Todd. We hope to bring “Breath of Life” to more cities to bring the arts and science communities together and I would certainly love to have it here in Houston,” said Todd.




Social Posts

profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

RT @KirstiClifford: Rounding with @ppisters and @CarolPorterDNP was extra special today as we recognized our amazing staff @MDAndersonNews…

21 mins ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

RT @BCMSpaceHealth: Attention all researchers & scientists. Join Stephen Mayo and TRISH research #spacehealth.Information can be found he…

28 mins ago
profile_image

UTHealth

@UTHealth

RT @UTPhysicians: Dr. Stuart Harlin will be a guest on KPRC TV Channel 2’s Houston Life. At 1:30 today, he will be discussing varicose and…

29 mins ago
profile_image

Harris Health System

@harrishealth

Reduce your risk of cancer - RE: @WHO https://t.co/DGDoZCOXj5

33 mins ago
profile_image

UTMB Health

@utmbhealth

RT @ppisters: I enjoyed my visit yesterday with @utmbhealth president Dr. David Callender and his team. Great tour and time spent learning…

37 mins ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

Eye cancer survivor Tina Ladowski: "Suddenly, there was hope where none had been before." https://t.co/3cEQhyBpit #Rarecancer @MDAProtons #endcancer https://t.co/7tfmqvlqsB

49 mins ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Colorado’s new Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center is open for business https://t.co/btQdn6UuSi via #VAntagePoint

54 mins ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

Two University of Houston students and a faculty member, striving to set examples for future generations of women. #GoCoogs! https://t.co/xZWa98q6aW

55 mins ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

RT @uhparking: Did you know? Our team has been working hard to get parking permits ready and sent out, so be sure to keep an eye out for yo…

57 mins ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

RT @RiceUNews: #Houston and #HarrisCounty's serious flooding problems can be solved if funding is available and both the public and local o…

2 hours ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

Rice’s Disability Support Services has changed its name to the Rice Disability Resource Center to reflect its expanded scope of services offered: https://t.co/63eC9pJn8d https://t.co/UVQXuqI5Qx

2 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

Learn how Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences student Jamie Reyes decided to get into research after his grandfather's death. https://t.co/qtE4duuobR #students

2 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

Family members and guests joined first-year medical students at Baylor College of Medicine's Family Day on Aug. 11, 2018. The event included campus tours and faculty presentations. View more photos on our Facebook page. https://t.co/PZD1zqjBXL https://t.co/97fj6gZkI2

2 hours ago
profile_image

UTMB Health

@utmbhealth

RT @utmbnews: See the @noticiashouston segment with our own Dr. Cortiella speaking about bioengineering lungs: Investigadores de Texas adel…

2 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Tom, a @USArmy Veteran, reconnected with some of his battle buddies years after their service. He finds relief in the camaraderie of being around Veterans who experienced challenges like his own. Hear his story: https://t.co/JERUKq7VeA https://t.co/AW42GALdGO

2 hours ago