Meet the young woman who can see her heart beat through her chest

·6-min read

Meet the young woman who can see her heart beat through her chest after she had a heart transplanted that was too big for her.

Cecilia Adamou, 22, went viral after she posted a video online of her heart pushing through her rib cage, that she received from a middle aged man when she was just ten.

She uses her platform to talk candidly about organ donation, after undergoing both heart and kidney transplants since she was born with a serious health condition.

Cecilia, from Cobham, Surrey, said: "It's always been very special to me, I find it very amazing that I have somebody else's heart inside of me - how incredible is that?

"It used to be much more pronounced, when I had a smaller body it used to keep me awake at night.

"It's confirmation that my heart's still going, I am quite proud of it!"

Cecilia was born with a serious condition called Atrioventricular Septal Defect with Left Atrial Isomerism, which meant there were holes between the chambers on either side of her heart.

She had a minor surgery when she was only six months old, and her first bypass at two, but then had a healthy and normal childhood for about six years.

Her heart then started to deteriorate, and she continued to get more and more ill until the then ten-year-old was taken in for heart surgery in April 2010.

"It was meant to make me better but it didn't, it made me far worse, to the edge of death," she said.

Cecilia's weakened heart unfortunately did not respond well to the surgery and she suffered a cardiac arrest almost immediately after.

She reached end stage heart failure and was kept unconscious on full life support in the ICU for months, until it was decided she needed to have a heart transplant.

The journalism graduate said: "My parents would come home every night not knowing if I would be alive the next morning.

"A couple of times they got the call saying they had to come in, it's near the end."

She was prioritised as the most urgent patient on the Europe-wide organ transplant waiting list.

Cecilia said: "Two hearts had come and gone before my heart transplant.

"My parents had had those disappointments, I didn't know about them

"I feel like something had told me that night that something was going to happen."

After a month, on September 2010 a donor was found she went in for a 12-hour surgery, during which she suffered another cardiac arrest.

Schoolgirl Cecilia was on life support for another three months after, suffering kidney failure and nerve damage to her feet that meant she couldn't walk.

During her time in St Thomas's Hospital, staff wheeled her hospital bed outside to go and take the little girl to see the London Eye with parents Jo and Vas Adamou, 63 and 65.

She said: "There was always that hope I would survive even though at times the situation was really bleak.

"We made friendships and laughed, I was sitting on life support and we were making jokes.

"They went above and beyond to give me the will to live."

She was home for Christmas 2010, but over the next few years returned to hospital to have a kidney transplant, donated from her mother, and feet surgery that enabled her to walk again.

"I was a completely different person, but my heart was working," she said.

In 2014, a few days before jetting off on a family holiday to Turkey, Cecilia got really ill with excruciating headaches, but her doctor gave her the clear to fly.

She continued to feel poorly, but put it down to dehydration in the hot climate, until it got to the point she was vomiting from pain and went to see a doctor.

They originally diagnosed her with nasal and ear infections, but as she deteriorated further she was booked in for a CT scan of her brain - and was told she had a brain tumour.

Cecilia, a social media account executive, said: "Obviously that is a massive shock, my mum nearly passed out, I didn't know what do.

"I'd kept telling everyone it was brain tumour and they kept telling me how dramatic I was!"

She was flown back to the UK in a private plane, and doctors later found four tumours - two in her brain and two in her spine - all of which were all linked to her immunosuppressant medication she took for her transplants.

"At one point they were like 'after everything, this is it, this is what's going to do it'," she recalled.

Cecilia had brain surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and fortunately all the tumours are now under control.

She has been left with scars all over her body - the heart transplant left a jagged one down the middle of chest and others on her torso from chest drains and catheters.

She wrote a letter to the family of her donor on the first and eighth anniversary of her transplant, and received a response from his father.

Cecilia said: "That was amazing, it definitely cemented the fact that I had someone else's heart inside my body and that this heart had lived two lives.

"As a youngster my main focus was going to back to school, I didn't really think about it that much.

"I had a heart from this entity, this figure, but I learnt his name, I learnt about his family and was like 'that's a real person'

"He liked collecting things which is weird because I always collected things, he collected stamps and when I was little I collected dolls."

Cecilia can even see her heart beating through the scar in her chest.

She said: "I think it's because when they put the heart in me I was a tiny malnourished 11-year-old girl with a middle aged mans heart."

When the surgeons tried to close up her sternum she went into cardiac arrest, so the had to use strips of medical materiel to gradually bring her chest together like a bootlace.

For Cecilia, her beating heart is a physical reminder that she is alive.

She posted a video of it on her TikTok account which went viral, and brought in comments from other transplant recipients and their loved ones.

She said: "It's lovely hearing about other people's stories, as there's always little worries.

"I want to encourage more people to sign up to be an organ donor, even though it's opt out, something people don't know is your family will always have the last say.

"It's really important you tell your family of your wishes and have this conversation, if your parents say no it can't happen."

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