Heart transplant teen befriended by Brandy dies at 17

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A teenage girl who got a heart transplant thanks to a fund-raising campaign by singer/actress Brandy has died less than four months after surgery.

Jessica Harris, 17, who lived in the same town of McComb, Mississippi, where Brandy was raised, died at a New York hospital on Thursday, Brandy said.

The star of reality TV shows “Dancing With the Stars” and “Brandy and Ray J: A Family Business” met Harris last year and with her family began a campaign to raise funds for surgery to correct her congenital heart defect.

Harris received the transplant in late February.

“Jessica was and will always be an inspiration to our family. In the face of her illness, her courageous spirit and positive outlook gave us memories we will cherish for a lifetime,” the singer and her family said in a statement on Friday.

“We were touched by the outpouring of generosity from the public when we set up a fund on her behalf to help cover her medical and travel expenses,” the statement added.

Brandy thanked those who donated to the fund and the hospital that carried out the heart transplant -- the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in New York.

Harris suffered from hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and was denied medical insurance through her father’s job because she was deemed to be suffering from a preexisting condition.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant; editing by Chris Michaud