Woman Who Carried Artificial Heart In Rucksack Dies

1 March 2019, 15:38 | Updated: 1 March 2019, 17:10

Rebecca Henderson

The family of a woman from Bicester who carried an artificial heart in a rucksack has paid tribute following her death.

Rebecca Henderson, 24, was given the artificial heart after her own had to be removed due to cancer.

She went on to have an operation to receive a new heart after being cancer-free for a year but died due to transplant complications, her family and friends have said.

Her mother Linda tweeted: "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."

Dr Janina Ramerez, an Oxford academic, said on Instagram that her friend died on Wednesday.

She wrote: "She lived for over a year with a total artificial heart and sadly the operation that was due to give her a new one took her.

"She was just the strongest, bravest person I've ever met. Think of her today. Do something brave and strong to remember her."

Ms Henderson from Bicester in Oxfordshire, who was finishing a masters at Oxford University, is reported to have died at Harefield Hospital in London.

St Anne's College, Oxford, where she was studied, released a statement following her death.

It said: "Becca completed a BA in English and Modern Languages at St Anne's College between 2013 and 2017.

"A talented and enthusiastic student, she was accepted by the University of Oxford for an masters in English (650- 1550), also at St Anne's.

"During her studies she fell ill with sepsis and whilst in hospital was diagnosed with cancer of the heart.

"She defied the odds, undergoing surgery and returning to her studies last year after receiving a total artificial heart."

The statement said Ms Henderson was placed on the heart transplant list in January and received a new heart last month at Harefield Hospital.

It added: "Tragically after her surgery she suffered a series of complications that she could not recover from.

"Becca inspired us all with her unwavering determination to pursue her studies and her contagious enthusiasm for college life.

"She was progressing towards successfully completing her masters despite all the health challenges she was facing, whilst also embracing social opportunities within St Anne's.

"Her most recent cause for celebration before her operation was that she had received an offer from Oxford's English department to undertake a DPhil.

"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."

Ms Henderson's tutors added in a statement: "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.

"Just hours before her heart transplant, she was working on her thesis proposal.

"She was a true scholar and we all have something to learn from her dedication.

"Characteristically, she was planning to write her DPhil thesis on attitudes to disability in the Middle Ages in hope of contributing towards changing attitudes towards disability."