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Young woman pleads for more organ donors after fearing she will die waiting for lifesaving surgery

A young woman is pleading for more organ donors after fearing she will die before her life saving surgery. 

At just 24-years-old, Jessica Manning, from Auckland, New Zealand, has already undergone five open heart surgeries after being born with six congenital defects. 

Pic from Caters News: Jessica Manning as a newborn with heart problems

But now Jessica’s options are running low and after being diagnosed with critical heart failure and liver disease, her only chance of survival resting on a double organ transplant. 

However, organ donations are considerably low in New Zealand compared to the rest of the western world, meaning Jessica has already faced an agonising 14 month wait for the life-saving procedure. 

And without a new heart and liver doctors predict she will only live for another two years at the most.

Jessica said she can feel herself becoming ‘sicker and weaker’ as the days go by – with the young woman needing round the clock care from her husband Troy Lee Fesola’i, 23, and her mother Kim Manning, 51, who are both trained in CPR and know how to use the defibrillator incase her heart suddenly stops. 

Pic from Caters News: Jessica Manning

Jessica said: “It’s so hard just waiting around and waiting for my body to fail.

“I don’t want to die. I have so much more I want to do. 

“I need my life to start. But without this transplant, I’m scared it will be cut short. 

 “New Zealand has a lower rate of organ donation than the rest of the world so it’s really hard to find the perfect match for me. 

“The liver has to be the perfect size for me and come from someone with a similar build. 

“They also need to match my blood and tissue type. So it’s quite complicated. 

Pic from Caters News

“But I’m at the top of the list now, so it’s just a waiting game. 

“The only problem is I can feel myself becoming sicker with each passing day. 

“I can’t do the same things I could do just a few months ago. I can’t straighten my hair, do my makeup or get dressed without feeling like I’ve just run a marathon. 

“I can hardly walk to the letterbox and back, and now I have a seat in the shower because I get too tired. It’s very frustrating. 

“I just wish everyone would become an organ donor. You don’t need them once you’re gone. 

“In some countries everyone is an organ donor automatically, and you have to actually opt out of it if you don’t want that to happen. 

Pic by Perspectives and Zahn Photography/Caters News: Jessica Manning with her mother Kim at her wedding in March 2017

“If more people donated their organs I could have had the operation by now and be healthy and living my life. But I’m still here waiting. 

“One person can save anywhere from 8-10 lives. I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to be a hero.”

Jessica had her very first surgery at just five months old, followed by a complicated operation at three years old to ‘replumb’ her heart known as Fontans surgery. 

Following her third surgery at six years old, Jessica’s health remained in a relatively stable condition until 2012, when ‘everything went downhill’ following a bad reaction to surgery, resulting in her needing a pacemaker implanted at just 18.

And after contracting influenza in 2015, the young woman’s heart rapidly deteriorated so badly that Jessica felt she was on her death bed – with a final surgery being her only option before considering a transplant.  

Pic by Perspectives and Zahn Photography/Caters News: Jessica Manning and Troy and their wedding in March 2017.

But just one month before the procedure, Jessica was diagnosed with stage one liver disease – a side effect of the Fontans surgery she had as a toddler. 

After an unsuccessful final procedure, Jessica had no other option but to go on the waitlist for a double heart and liver transplant in order to save her life. 

Despite being made first priority due to Jessica’s declining health, the young woman has already been waiting 14 months for the life-saving double organ transplant. 

Jessica said: “I’ve always been sick and have been in and out of hospitals my entire life. 

“I had three major heart surgeries before I was seven. Luckily, I don’t really remember much from before aged 10. 

“Everything was actually pretty normal for me up until I was 18. 

Pic from Caters News: Jessica Manning

“I had surgery called an aortic root replacement in 2012. But three days after the procedure I couldn’t breathe, and my health went downhill really fast. 

 “After that I had a pacemaker put in. It wasn’t meant to be permanent, but after a few months when my heart wasn’t normal they said I’d have to leave it in. 

“Then in 2015 I got the flu and my heart just deteriorated. I had my final surgery in 2016 but it wasn’t successful. 

“And a few months before this, I was diagnosed with stage one liver disease. It was a result of a procedure I had as a child. 

“This was hard to take. I didn’t know how things could get any worse. 

Pic from Caters News

“After that, doctors told me a double transplant was my only option at survival. Without this, I only have two years to live at the most. 

“It’s really horrible to think about. I don’t want to die. 

“But I’m staying hopeful that everything will be okay. I’m praying that any day now, I’ll get that phone call that they have my organs.”

A heart and liver transplant has only been done twice in New Zealand since 2011, and Jessica believes it will be the first time it has been done on someone who has undergone Fontans surgery. 

Do you, or someone you know, have a similar story to tell? Get in touch today to earn £££ and raise awareness.


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