The transplant patient, named as Penny, can be seen wearing a medical mask as she holds what appears to be her old heart.
The incredible photo has made its way around the world after the woman’s friend Kelsey uploaded it onto photo-sharing site Imgur.
‘Penny’ now has a new fully-functioning heart following the operation, her friend revealed on the site.
Posting the image of Penny on Imgur, Kelsey said: “[Penny] is holding her own heart. She has survived cancer and crippling heart failure and never lost hope.”
Her friend also revealed doctors had allowed Penny to take a photograph of her old heart before it was cremated.
According to Kelsey’s profile, Penny had wanted to take her heart home but the hospital’s strict policy on transplants prevented her from taking it home.
She said: “She wanted to keep it but they wouldn’t let her! I said the same thing. It had to be cremated but she kept the ashes. She added: “She’s my hero.”
Around 3,500 heart transplants are performed across the globe each year. The risks associated with having a heart transplant have been reduced in recent years due to advancements in treatments.
Patients are required to stay in hospital for up to two weeks, however, recovery time normally takes months, depending on the health of the recipient.
It is estimated that around one in ten people will die due to complications in the first year after surgery, with most deaths occurring in the first 30 days. After this time the chances of survival improve dramatically.