Woman with a heart in a rucksack dies from transplant complications

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Rebecca Henderson

Rebecca Henderson, who carried an artificial heart in a rucksack after her own was removed, has died from transplant complications. BBC News reports that 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 had died in Harefield Hospital “surrounded by family and friends”. She was one of only two people in the UK with an artificial heart.

The report says the Oxford University post-graduate student had her heart removed due to cancer in 2017. Surgeon Stephen Westaby said “minuscule numbers of people” ever had cancer in the heart and Henderson was “the most courageous young woman”.

In October, she returned to study at Oxford and brought the 7kg artificial heart with her. “At no point did it ever occur to me to give up,” she is quoted in the report as saying 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. I had my sister’s wedding and I had to get to that, I have other friends’ weddings, I’ve got my mum (and) my dad.”

The report says St Annes College, where she was studying, paid tribute to Henderson’s “unwavering determination” and “contagious enthusiasm for college life”. “She had so many hopes and plans for the future and it is hard for us to realise that she will not have the chance to fulfil them,” it said. “We will always be proud that Becca, as an undergraduate and graduate student, was someone who was part of and loved St Anne’s.”

Her tutors added: “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.”

According to the report, Dr Janina Ramerez, an Oxford academic who was friends with Henderson, said on Instagram she was “the strongest, bravest person I’ve ever met”.

BBC News report

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