Young woman shares how she was born with half a heart and has undergone 200 procedures
Since the age of three, Jessica Manning has been in and out of the hospital after being born with half a heart.
The now 28-year-old from New Zealand claims she’s had more than 200 surgeries to date and described the look of her heart as ‘biscuit dough’.
She also suffered holes throughout her body, twisted arteries and multiple leaks in her valves, which were considered life-threatening and gave her only a few more years to live.
“My biggest heart surgery was my fontan, which connects the heart with a tube to the pulmonary artery. It was almost like a reconstruction of my heart,” Jessica told Jam Press.
‘I have led a great life because of this’ [until my late teens] but over time caused problems with my liver. While my friends were living their best lives, it was super hard for me to process and a lot for my body to go on.
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Jessica Manning (pictured) has been in and out of the hospital for most of her life after being born with only half a heart
The now 28-year-old from New Zealand claims she has had more than 200 surgeries to date
Jessica spent her 19th birthday in the hospital and then recovered at home for a month before unfortunately suffering heart failure.
“I spent the next three months in the hospital, fighting for my life, with only five percent heart function,” she said.
At age 25, she had a heart and liver transplant, a few years earlier with pacemaker surgery and emergency lung surgery.
‘I waited [over a year] because I was the first heart and liver transplant performed on someone born in New Zealand and Australia with a heart condition,” she said.
‘I had both organs done together and the recovery was super difficult because I lost all my muscle memory and had to relearn how to move.
“Four weeks after the transplant, I went into cardiac arrest, where CPR and a defibrillator didn’t work — so the surgeon had to reopen my chest and manually massage my heart.”
Jessica was then kept in a coma for three days and said she had lost all of her muscle memory.
“I also had septic shock, where all my organs fell out and basically started over. I recovered very well after that and haven’t had any problems since then,” she added.
At age 25, she had a heart and liver transplant, but before that she had undergone pacemaker surgery and emergency lung surgery. The heart transplant was successful and she described the organ’s appearance as ‘biscuit dough’ (pictured, right)
“I also had septic shock, where all my organs fell out and basically started over. I recovered really well after that and haven’t had any problems since then,” said Jessica
Since her surgery was a success, Jessica offered her heart and liver to go to a university in New Zealand for research, but two months later she was told her heart was ready to collect.
After the successful live and heart transplant, Jessica offered her organs to a university in New Zealand for research purposes – but two months later she was told her heart could be collected.
“They called and said they still have my heart because they only needed a small part of it and asked if I wanted the rest. I said yes because at the time I was doing a few lectures for children of hearts and I thought of it as ‘show and tell’ so they could see what a sick heart looked like,” Jessica said.
“When I’m ready to let it go, I’ll bury it somewhere sentimental to me — but for now, I’m using it on TikTok.”
At the age of three, Jessica had two open heart surgeries
Jessica has shared her extraordinary survival story in a series of TikTok videos, one clip of which has been viewed more than 1.3 million times.
In one video, she begins by giving a “trigger warning” before speaking out about her experience and then showing her old heart in front of the camera, comparing it to the appearance of “biscuit dough.”
Surprisingly, the organ was huge, covering the size of her chest due to ongoing damage.
“Your heart is the size of your fist, I was only born with half a heart, so my heart should initially be smaller than my fist,” she said in the video.
“But because it was so damaged, it was really swollen and took up my entire chest cavity.”
Jessica is grateful to have received free healthcare in New Zealand, but her transplants are estimated to have cost $3 million (NZD) due to the complications and aftercare. Today her heart and liver are doing ‘great’ and she has had no organ rejection
Jessica is grateful to have received free healthcare in New Zealand, but her transplants are estimated to have cost $3 million (NZD) due to the complications and aftercare.
Today her heart and liver are doing ‘great’ and she has had no organ rejection.
She said, “It’s normal to get some kind of rejection in your first… [year] post-transplant. “I’m still building up my fitness, but that’s a work in progress.
“I’ve had tremendous support from my family and friends – I couldn’t have done it without them.
“My parents raised me the way they raised my siblings, so I was able to grow up living as much of a ‘normal’ life as possible.
“They have stood by my side every step of the way through every operation and procedure.”