Woman Who Carried Artificial Heart in Backpack Dies After Transplant

March 1, 2019 Updated: March 1, 2019

A British woman who carried an artificial heart in a backpack after her own was removed has died from complications during transplant surgery.

Rebecca Henderson, 24, from Bicester, was cleared to receive a heart from a donor after medical tests showed she had been free of cancer for a year, BBC reported.

For about two years Henderson carried a 15-pound mechanical heart after her own had to be removed due to a rare heart cancer.

Henderson died on Wednesday, Feb. 27, in Harefield Hospital “surrounded by family and friends,” according to relatives cited in the report.

Her death was due to unspecified complications during a risky procedure, according to the Daily Mail.

Henderson’s mother, Linda, wrote about her on Twitter: “We’re going to miss our amazing, wonderful daughter.

“She touched so many lives and lived her life to the fullest. She was also my best friend and I’m going to love and miss her forever.”

Becca—as she was known to friends and family—was one of only two people in the UK with an artificial heart.

“It was a privilege to have her as a daughter and a friend,” her family said, according to the BBC. “Becca was a beautiful, brilliant shining light in our lives.

“Heaven has gained the brightest new star. We will love her forever.”

Bbc News EnglandOxfordRebecca Henderson: Rucksack heart woman dies after transplant1 hour agoVideo: 'I carry my heart in a rucksack'A woman who carried an artificial heart in a rucksack after her own was removed has died from transplant complications.Rebecca Henderson, 24, from Bicester, was given the green light to receive a donor organ after scans showed she had been free of cancer for a year.But her relatives said she died on Wednesday in Harefield Hospital "surrounded by family and friends".She was one of only two people in the UK with an artificial heart.Her family said: "Becca was a beautiful, brilliant shining light in our lives."It was a privilege to have her as a daughter and a friend. Heaven has gained the brightest new star. We will love her forever."

Posted by John Dedman on Friday, 1 March 2019

In a later tweet, her mother made reference to the outpouring of condolences appearing on her daughter’s Twitter account—which in her profile says, “Also has Total Artificial Heart.” She wrote she was “totally blown away by the wonderful messages” for her daughter, adding, “she is the most amazing person. It is a privilege to be her mum and I’ll never stop loving or missing her. 😔💕”

‘Courageous Young Woman’

Henderson, who was a post-graduate student at Oxford University, underwent a procedure in 2017 to remove her own disease-stricken organ.

Surgeon Stephen Westaby was cited by the BBC as saying that “minuscule numbers of people” ever had cancer in the heart and Henderson was “the most courageous young woman.”

Henderson made headlines when she returned to study history at St. Anne’s College, Oxford, and brought the 15-pound artificial heart with her in a backpack.

“I’m slightly crazily or perhaps slightly ingeniously—I’m not sure which yet—going back to uni now and I’m doing that taking my mum and dad as 24-hour carers,” she told the BBC.

She said her parents were there in case the batteries of the device gave out, in which she would only have four minutes to get the artificial heart started again.

Today's Times…Amazing story of Rebecca Henderson, survivor of heart cancer (wow) who carries her artificial heart in a…

Posted by Paul Bennett on Wednesday, 16 January 2019

“At no point did it ever occur to me to give up,” she told the BBC at the time.

“No matter how hard it is for me, even if it is hard for me, it will then be easier for the next person.”

‘She Never Complained’

St Anne’s College—which called Henderson a “true scholar”—released a statement following her death.

“Becca inspired us all with her unwavering determination to pursue her studies and her contagious enthusiasm for college life,” the statement said.

Her college teachers were cited in the statement as saying, “Becca’s positive outlook and her tremendous courage and determination were an inspiration to all those around her.

“In the hospital, while recovering from her first heart surgery, she wrote her first two academic papers, both of which she was subsequently asked to publish. And despite the enormous challenges of having a TAH, she never complained.”

The statement continued: “Our thoughts and condolences are with Becca’s heartbroken family and friends.”

The college further cited Henderson’s college instructors:

“Becca was a person of extraordinary courage, humour and intellectual achievement as well as potential. She had the admiration and affection of all who taught her and learned with her, students and tutors alike.”

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