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Too ill for organ transplant, woman carries her heart in backpack


A British mother has had a life-changing operation so radical, she now effectively carries her heart in a backpack.

Selwa Hussain, 39, has become the second-ever person in Britain to be given an artificial heart after a six-hour operation.

A battery-powered pump and electric motor inside the 6.8kg bag pushes air through tubes to feed plastic chambers in Selwa’s chest.This pushes blood around her body.

The mum-of-two, from Ilford, east London, was taken to Harefield Hospital, west London, in July after suffering heart failure.

She was too ill for a heart transplant and her husband, Al, agreed she be given an artificial organ.

Selwa’s diseased natural heart was removed by surgeons and replaced with an artificial implant and the specialist unit on her back at the hospital, famous across the world for its heart and lung centres.

It cost £86,000 ($116,000) to make in the US.

“I was so ill before and after the surgery that it has taken me all this time to get fit enough to come home,” Selwa said.

“Harefield have been absolutely magnificent. They came up with a solution that allowed me to stay alive to see the New Year with my family. For that, I am eternally grateful.”

Medics concluded Selwa’s sudden heart failure was caused by a condition called cardiomyopathy that can, in very rare cases, be triggered by pregnancy.

The first person in the UK to have been given an artificial heart was a 50-year-old man in 2011.

The surgery was performed at Papworth Hospital near St Neots, Cambridgeshire.


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