Emily Kopp’s tale of courage: The Surgery .. The Strength (Part 2)


My chest was being painted with a cleaning solution for my transplant. It tickled and I was rooting more vehemently for the Browns because I was being painted orange. The original transplant day was scheduled for October 16, but the double checking of the heart pushed it to October 17. I was 17-years-old and had only been on the waiting list for 7 days. I didn’t realize how odd these numbers were yet, but I did realize how lucky I was. Some patients spend years and holidays waiting. I was the calmest person in the room. It was soothing to be surrounded by family and friends. I was ready to say goodbye to my bad heart. Goodbye water weight. Goodbye sores.

While hugging everyone before being wheeled into the operating room, I felt a small panic. “What if this is the last time everyone will see me?” I calmed myself by telling myself that I wouldn’t feel a thing. I would be in a two day coma. I made sure each hug was long, but had trust in the surgeons. I decided not to look back once inside and I remember how big the operating room was. I hopped up onto the operating table where they had me count backwards. Before I could finish counting, I was out. I remember they told me that when I would be half awake, they would ask me to move. I don’t remember moving.

The next thing I remember was that I was fighting to be awake. I had a difficult time trying to open my eyes and everything I could barely see appeared to be covered by a thin veil. It turns out that my eyes kept opening even when I wasn’t awake so they had to glue them shut. I felt like I was burning up with a fever. My feet could only move at first so I tried kicking off my blanket then I muttered, “it is too hot.” I don’t remember who I first saw when I woke up, but I think everyone was there waiting for me. I learned that everyone waiting wasn’t informed right away when I was done and that I was put in my room from back door backwards. Mary (Who is Mary Should be told sister/friend)didn’t sleep or leave my side. My dad had cried upon seeing everything that I was hooked up to.

I had a breathing tube in that I felt upon waking, tubes to drain the blood from my lungs, multiple infusions, pacemaker wires, and loads of tape. I thought that my heart was racing when I first woke up, but then I remembered how slow my heart had been. Even though I was loaded up with morphine, I could feel the tubes in my lungs digging into my back. When it was time to get the tubes removed, I was excited, but it was the most unpleasant thing I can remember experiencing. They had me take a deep breathe before pulling them. Despite the deep breathe that I took, I gasped, choked, and cringed in pain.

They say that transplant patients crave things that the donor liked. I was craving M&M cookies. I had to wait until I healed more until I could eat more foods. They let me have an M&M McFlurry.

I told the nurses that I didn’t mind being poked over and over again with needles, but I had an infusion put in the side of my bicep to insure that I didn’t get an infection. I had a pencil sized infusion in my groin already. I didn’t want to bend my leg and was afraid that I would accidentally pull the pacemaker wires that protruding from my body out. The worst part about getting the infusion in my bicep was the numbing process. The surgeons were asking me if I felt anything and they kept hitting a nerve in the process. It created the tingling sensation you feel when you smack your open hand on a table.

I was upset at the fact that I needed a permanent and rather bulky pacemaker because my new heart wasn’t beating fast enough. Taking medicine has never been a problem for me because I have always had to take medicine even as a child. I will continue to always have medicine for the rest of my life. There were new limitations that I hated, but had to accept. I would have to receive heart biopsies on a regular basis. I wished that there were other ways to check rejection levels. No more Mountain Dew. The grapefruit juice would interfere with my anti-rejection medicine. No standing in front of loud speakers or going through metal detectors. Electronic devices could interfere with my pacemaker. For my pacemaker surgery, I was fully conscious. I couldn’t feel the incision, but I did feel the pressure of the surgeons pounding my pacemaker in. The pacemaker scar hurt more than my transplant scar did. I was annoyed at the fact that I couldn’t lift my arm for a while in order to keep the pacemaker in place. I had some of the most vivid dreams and got to spend my Halloween in the hospital. It was exciting to get a whole pillowcase full of candy from everyone there.

CorpseBride     CorpseBride2

I was allowed to walk a short distance with a wireless heart monitor. I loved to sit and watch the tropical fish in one of the waiting rooms. One day, I noticed a large family grouped together. They were crying. I learned that Denzel Douglas’ heart was failing and it was too late. He was only 16 years old. I had survivor’s guilt and cried for them. I thought about how knowing for certain when you would die would feel peaceful and horrifying. I wanted to comfort them somehow, but thought I would only make it worse.

I recovered relatively quickly and was able to go home. The tingling sensation remained for a whole month. Everyone who came in the house had to wash their hands and I couldn’t go out anywhere for three months. My dad wrote a letter to the donor family. I wanted to write to express my gratitude, but felt like I would be reopening a wound. My donor was a twenty year old male who died in a motorcycle accident.

I was home schooled poorly, but still managed to catch up when I did go back to school. It was upsetting that I had to withdraw from my chemistry class because it was the only class I shared with my boyfriend, Tony. My chemistry teacher was very fond of me and was all praises for my will power and positive approach throughout my recovery period.  trying and recovering. I learned that people spread rumors at school that I died. It was humbling and amusing.

I was extremely anxious to finally kiss Tony. He earned immense trust by staying with me I started respecting him more because he loved me despite of my medical conditions. We kept glancing over at each other while watching South Park late at night. Our eyes met and he said, “Hi.” “Hi”, I responded with and then finally leaned in. It was passionate and long overdue. I could finally return to normal life.

For many who do not have other complications life goes on normally, with in the frame work of limitation, which is as good as having a new life altogether. I wish I was one amongst them.(I fell this should be end of part one of the story which tell about the fight of young girl to get normal life. This end would make the readers curious about what happened later.)

I am Yet Positive Towards life. I will not fail my donor. I am a strong girl.

Read more about Emily here.

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