Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Obese Man Clogs Franklin Institute's Giant Heart

Visitors looking to enter the iconic Giant Heart exhibit at The Franklin Institute were turned away today when an obese man became stuck inside the model walk-thru heart.

At 2 p.m. Tuesday, Philadelphia police and fire department were called to the science museum to assist in the removal of a 400 pound man from the heart exhibit located on the building's second floor. Upon entering The Joy and George Rathmann Hall of Science, police officer Erik Stevens said he was shocked by what he saw.

"I remember coming here as a kid and seeing the heart so I know what it's supposed to look like," said Stevens. "But this was amazing because the one part was all bulged out from the size of the guy inside."

Witnesses of the event said the man inside the heart, 42-year-old Michael McConnell of St. Louis, Missouri, entered with a group of tourists who encouraged him to stay out.

"I had just gone through [the heart] before that guy went in and I was saying to my boyfriend that the walkways and steps were so narrow," said Alisha Harrison of Port Richmond who was visiting the museum for the first time. "When I saw him go in I seriously said to myself, 'I bet he gets stuck,' and sure enough he did."

Firefighters initially planned to remove McConnell by cutting into the heart's upper chamber, but were concerned the incision would cause irreparable damage to the 54 year old heart, which underwent renovations in 2004. Instead, firefighters inserted a large tube filled with compressed air which expanded a portion of the heart allowing McConnell to pass through.

The irony of the entire event was not lost on museum curator Steven Jacobs who said a height and weight restriction for the heart may be enforced in the future.

"Look, if this isn't a metaphor for what's happening in this country then nothing is," said Jacobs. "For god's sake, a fat man clogged a giant heart, what more do do I need to say? I'm just glad we don't have a giant liver because I don't want to know the things that would go on in there."

McConnell was taken to Hahnemann University Hospital‎ where he is listed in stable condition.

The Giant Heart is listed in fair condition and Jacobs says the exhibit will reopen to the public following a recovery period.

"We'll probably start slowly and just see how it goes, but I expect the heart to be up and running in about three months."

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