The art transplant
Last updated at 09:13 31 March 2006
But as he convalesced after a heart transplant operation, he experienced an astonishing revelation.
Suddenly he was blessed with an artistic talent he simply did not recognise, producing beautiful drawings of wildlife and landscapes.
He was even more amazed when he discovered what he now believes to be the explanation. The man who donated his new heart was a keen artist.
Last night Mr Sheridan, 63, was being hailed as the latest example of a phenomenon which sounds like science fiction but which is intriguing a growing number of medical experts - that it is possible during an organ transplant to inherit character traits from the donor.
Mr Sheridan, a retired catering manager, started drawing as therapy to relieve the boredom while waiting for a donor in New York's Mount Sinai Hospital.
There was no way his efforts could be considered artistic, according to the hospital's consultant art therapist, Beth DeFuria.
"But days after his transplant, he began creating this amazing, elaborate artwork," she said. "It was really quite amazing how his talent blossomed."
Yesterday, Mr Sheridan met the mother of the heart donor and handed her a sketch of a large hand holding a heart with the inscription: "You gave me more than a heart. Thank you."
He had agreed to give up the traditional anonymity between donor and recipient as part of a campaign to publicise the need for more organs.
In the process he discovered the heart had come from 24-year-old Wall Street stockbroker Keith Neville, who died in a car crash And one of the first things Mr Sheridan asked the dead man's mother, Donna Reed, was whether her son had been artistic. Mrs Reed told him her son loved to paint. She said: "He was very artistic. He showed an interest in art when he was just 18 months old.
"He always preferred to be given art supplies rather than toys."
Mr Sheridan said: "I am alive because someone was kind enough to give me their heart. He had to be a good person because I feel myself being more caring and loving."
Medical opinion is sceptical over whether organ recipients can gain more than just a lifeline
from their transplants. But Gary Schwartz, a professor of medicine, neurology, psychiatry and surgery at the University of Arizona, says research by a team he leads has found definite links. He calls it 'cellular memory'.
He has documented 70 cases where he believes transplant recipients have inherited the traits of their donors.
Prof Schwartz said: "When the organ is placed in the recipient, the information and energy stored in the organ is passed on to the recipient. The theory applies to any organ that has cells that are interconnected. They could be kidneys, liver and even muscles.
"The stories we have uncovered are very compelling and are completely consistent."
He says his studies have found that heart transplant patients are the most likely to experience personality changes.
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