I was born with half a heart, it looks like ‘cookie dough’

I was born with half a heart it looks like
I was born with half a heart it looks like

A woman has gone viral on TikTok after sharing that she was born with half a heart.

Jessica Manning from New Zealand was diagnosed with several heart defects from the time of her birth and has undergone 200 surgeries since the age of three.

By three years old, she had already had two open-heart surgeries, with a small hole closure by the time she was six.

Manning also suffered holes throughout her body, twisted arteries and multiple leaks in her valves, which were considered life-threatening.

She was given only a few years to live.

“My biggest heart surgery was my Fontan, which connects the heart to the pulmonary artery using a tube, that was almost like a reconstruction of my heart,” Manning told Jam Press. 

“This led me to have an amazing life [until my late teens] but over time, caused issues to my liver,” she said. “While my friends were living their best lives, it was super hard for me to process and a lot for my body to go through.”

The now-28-year-old spent her 19th birthday in the hospital. She recovered at home for a month before going into heart failure. 

“I spent the next three months in hospital fighting for my life, with only five percent heart function,” she said.

At 25 years old, Manning had both a heart and liver transplant, with pacemaker surgery and emergency young surgery a few years before.

Jessica Manning pictured aged 3, asleep after her fontans surgery
Jessica Manning at age 3, sleeping after her Fontan surgery.
Jam Press/Jess Manning

She said she waited over a year for the procedure because she was the first heart and liver transplant to be performed on someone born with heart disease in New Zealand and Australia.

“I had both organs done together and recovery was super hard as I lost all my muscle memory and had to learn how to move again.”

Four weeks after her transplant, Manning went into cardiac arrest.

CPR and a defibrillator didn’t work, so the surgeon re-opened her chest and manually massaged her heart, she told Jam Press.

Jessica Manning in one of her Tiktoks showing off her heart.
Jessica Manning shows off her heart on TikTok.
Jam Press Vid/Jess Manning

She was placed back into a coma for three days and again lost muscle memory.

“I also had septic shock, where all my organs shut down and basically restarted,” she said. “I recovered really well after that and have had no issues since.”

Manning received free health care in New Zealand but estimated that her transplants alone cost about $3 million NZD, which is about $1.8 million USD, due to complications and aftercare.

While she has not suffered any complications since receiving her transplants, she still will have to take medication for the rest of her life as a preventative measure.

Jessica Manning shows off her scars from surgeries.
Jessica Manning shows off her scars from surgeries.
Jam Press/Jess Manning

“My donor was a lot older than me, around twice my age, so I also take medication for cholesterol and blood thinner.”

Since Manning had a successful surgery, she offered her heart and liver to go to a New Zealand university for research. Two months later, she was told her heart was ready to collect. 

“They called saying they still have my heart as they only needed a small portion of it and asked if I wanted the rest. I said yes, because at that time, I was doing a few talks for heart kids and I took it for ‘show and tell’ so they could see what a diseased heart looked like.”

She has also received a lot of support from her family and friends, and said they have stuck by her side “every step of the way.”

Jessica Manning pictured aged 18 in an induced coma after having her Aortic valve fixed - her 4th open heart surgery
Jessica Manning at 18 years old in an induced coma.
Jam Press/Jess Manning

“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them,” she said. “My parents raised me just how they raised my siblings, so I was able to grow up with as much of a ‘normal’ life as possible.

Now that Manning has her heart, she shared her story on TikTok, showing it off to the social media platform. One of her videos has garnered over 1.4 million views and 168,000 likes.

She starts the now-viral video by giving a trigger warning for the human heart and telling the viewers about her situation.

Manning shows her heart in a bag and says it looks like “cookie dough.” 

“Your heart is the size of your fist, I was only born with half a heart, so my heart should initially be smaller than my fist,” she explains. “But due to it being so damaged it was actually really swollen and took up my entire chest cavity.”

She points out the dark spots on the heart, which she says are dead tissue, and a wire still attached, which was her old pacemaker.

TikTok users reacted in the comments, and many of them were surprised by the sight.

“No idea why I thought it was going to be red,” one said.

“I was expecting a photo of it after or during surgery, not for it to be in a plastic bag,” another wrote.

“So you literally have a big heart,” a user commented.

Manning now says that her heart and liver are doing “amazing” and she hasn’t suffered organ rejection, which is rare.

For now, she wants to keep her heart. 

“When I’m ready to let go, I will be burying it somewhere sentimental to me – but for now, I use it on TikTok.”