Inside the Collection

Organs for you

Anatomical model of seated human figure
Collection: Powerhouse Museum

It’s Organ Donor Awareness Week and this reminded me of a very popular former exhibition object known as ‘Chocka Bits’

One of the most dramatic advances in surgery occurred when it became possible to replace body parts, either with artificial implants or with human or animal transplants. The first artificial implant was a heart pacemaker developed in Sweden in 1959. Metal and plastic replacement hip joints followed in 1961. Skin grafts had been carried out as early as the 1860s but transplantation did not become truly successful until the problem of rejection was overcome. The first effective immuno-suppressant drugs were introduced in 1960, making organ replacement possible. Kidney transplants came first, followed by heart transplants in 1967.

‘Chocka Bits’ was commissioned for the ‘Mind and body’ exhibition to display artificial body parts in a life-like mannequin. Over thirty different implants were obtained from different manufacturers and an experienced model making company was contracted to undertake the fabrication and fitting out of the mannequin.

‘Chocka Bits’ was installed in 1989 and was very popular with visitors, in fact it received so much attention that by 1992 its skin was looking very dilapidated and it had lost several foot bones and an artificial testicle (Chocka Bits is a hermaphroditic figure). After a lengthy period of repair, during which time it was given a new, hard fibreglass skin, ‘Chocka Bits’ was returned to ‘Mind and body’ in 1993. It remained on display until the exhibition was dismantled in 1995, by which time most of its ‘bits’ would have been made obsolete by the rapid advances in replacement surgery in the intervening decade.

Despite the dramatic life saving outcomes possible for transplant recipients the decision to provide organ donations remains a sensitive issue for many. Campaigns such as Organ Donor Awareness Week and World Kidney Day seek to bring the issue to community attention and encourage family members to discuss donation, know each other’s wishes and register their decision.

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