A woman who had a heart transplant has kept her original heart preserved in a plastic bag – and stores it in her bedroom.
Jessica Manning had a double organ transplant at the age of 25, becoming the first to go through such a life-changing procedure in New Zealand.
She originally donated her organ to science, but when researchers gave it back, she decided to keep it. New Zealanders are allowed to keep their organs due to religious and cultural beliefs.
The heart is currently kept in preservation fluid in a vacuum-sealed bag, which she keeps in her bedroom.
But Jessica has plans for the heart in the future. She said: ‘When I purchase a house I want to bury it and plant a tree on top and dedicate it to my donor.’
Jessica’s heart-in-a-bag has turned heads on TikTok, but she says she ignores the trolls in order to educate people.
Born with half a heart that had five other defects including leaky valves, Jessica battled serious health problems her whole life.
By the age of 25, she’d had a total of five open-heart surgeries, two pacemaker surgeries, and one emergency lung surgery.
Then, she had a double heart and liver transplant – but it didn’t go smoothly.
The double transplant took 20 hours because of a bleed on her lung – she was in a coma for five days, during which she had a cardiac arrest that left her medically dead for 35 minutes.
Before her surgery, Jessica had originally agreed to donate her heart for research. But just a year later, scientists gave it back to her – so she decided to keep it, hoping to bury it in the garden of her future home. She’ll then plant a tree in dedication of her heart donor.
She said: ‘As a transplant recipient, it’s almost impossible to put into words how thankful we are not just to our donor but to the donor’s family.
‘Everything I do in life, I do for my donor.
‘Achieving my goals and doing all the things I love is to celebrate that my donor is still living.’
For now, Jessica shows the heart on TikTok videos to teach her followers the importance of organ donation and how a heart is changed by heart disease.
Healthy hearts are the size of a fist. Jessica’s was three times that – because when a muscle is overworked and damaged, it swells.
Replying to @Mina 🏽🤟🏽💪🏾 Here is the close up! #fyp
She films up close videos of the organ on TikTok, showing the dark patches of dead tissue, the wire that is still there from her pacemaker, and the green marker that researchers left on.
The preserved heart – which is now beige because there’s no blood being pumped through it – is currently in a draw on a desk in her bedroom.
She said: ‘Due to the heart being preserved, I didn’t need to keep it in the fridge or freezer. It also didn’t sit well with me that my heart would be near my food!’
Her story has garnered millions of views, and while most people are supportive or intrigued, others think it is odd.
Jessica said: ‘I always knew having my heart and educating about organ donation would be controversial but surprisingly 90% of people love it and find it really interesting.
‘There’s only a small percentage of people who think it’s weird or strange.
‘The people with the negative comments usually come across my page randomly and don’t take time to watch any of my other videos to understand why I kept it, or what I had gone through to be here today.’
Jessica also says she was changed by the organ transplant – even her tastebuds completely changed a year after the surgery.
As well as proudly displaying her old heart, Jessica shows off her scars too.
She said: ‘I am a very confident person, I adore my scars and the story they tell.
‘I love to wear a bikini to show them off, and if I’m not in a bikini I show them to people anyway.
‘I may not pass ‘society’s beauty standard’ but I know what I have gone through to get these scars and I’m so proud of myself which is why I love my scars more and more each day.
‘I just wish every other female, and male who is struggling with body acceptance could love themselves too.”
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