woman's heart
Representational image.Creative commons.

Selwa Hussain is all set to welcome the New Year in her own 'unique fashion.' Having recently undergone a lifesaving operation, Selwa is now Britain's first woman to carry her heart outside of her body – in a backpack.

Inside this backpack are batteries, an electric motor and a pump that pushes air through tubes, as her one of a kind condition has left her with power plastic chambers in her chest which push blood around her body.

Also read: UK's first baby survives despite being born with heart outside her body

It all started six months ago when the 39-year-old began feeling extremely breathless one day. Back then, Selwa had managed to drag herself to her car and drove 200 yards down the road to see the family doctor in Clayhall, Essex.

She was transferred to the city hospital from there, as she was told that she was suffering from severe heart failure. Four days later, she was rushed to the famous Harefield Hospital – as cardiologists struggled to keep her alive.

But Selwa's condition had left her too ill to stay alive on a support pump that would help her heart, and at the same time, her condition was too critical to allow a heart transplant. It was then that her husband Al agreed to his wife being given an artificial heart.

This £86,000 artificial heart – made by an American company – was fitted in a six-hour operation performed by surgeon Diana Garcia Saez, and assisted by Harefield's head of transplantation surgery, Mr Andre Simon. So far, Harefield is the only UK centre using the device.

The natural heart – which was too diseased to function, was replaced with an artificial implant and a specialist unit on her back, which emits a constant pumping and whirring noise from the motor attached.

Two large plastic tubes which are connected to the backpack, enter her body through her navel and travel up to her chest. They fill two balloons inside her chest cavity with air – functioning like chambers of a real heart to push blood around her body.

There are also two sets of batteries to power the motor and a second unit on standby in another backpack, in case the first one starts failing. In addition to that, her husband, or another caretaker must be with her constantly and if anything like that happens, they have only 90 seconds to connect her to the backup machine.

Having spent some time to get adjusted to carrying her heart alive in a bag, Selwa – the mother of two, shares, "I was so ill before and after the surgery that it has taken me all this time to get fit enough to come home."

Also read: Model reveals she is about to lose second leg to Toxic Shock Syndrome

Experts examining her case concluded that her condition is called cardiomyopathy that can, in very rare cases, be triggered by pregnancy. Mr Simon, who assisted Selwa's surgery, said: "The operation went very well and Selwa's recovery has been excellent."

Selwa, who herself is hoping for a transplant some time, said: "Harefield have been absolutely magnificent. They came up with a solution that allowed me to stay alive to see the New Year in with my family. For that I am eternally grateful."