PIQUA — A lifelong county resident received the gift of a lifetime after receiving a new lung and is encouraging others to register as organ donors.
Sue Popp of Piqua recently received a lung transplant.
“I was diagnosed five years ago with lung disease,” Popp said.
In 2012, Popp was diagnosed with interstitial lung disease and underwent a biopsy in February 2013 to determine what type, which turned out to be Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis.
Over the last five years, the disease advanced until Popp was in end stage lung disease, pulmonary fibrosis. Popp described pulmonary fibrosis as a lung disease that occurs when lung tissue is damaged and scarred, making it difficult for one’s lungs to work properly.
“This is a scarring of your lung disease. This disease has no cure. There was nothing else they could do for me,” Popp said. “From my first appointment, I was told I might need a lung transplant at some point. Even a transplant is not a cure, it just gives you a better quality of life for as long as you live.”
In order to be placed on the transplant list, Popp underwent a number of tests over a period of six months, taking numerous trips to the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. She was added to the transplant list in April.
“It was wonderful,” Popp said about receiving the transplant. “I was to a point I could hardly feed myself or dress myself.”
Part of the impetus to put Popp on the transplant list was when she had an episode in March, which prompted doctors to put her on the transplant list early.
“I had an episode where my C2 gases got too high,” Popp said. “I didn’t know who I was.”
She and her husband Terry Popp were having lunch at home together on May 19 when she got the call about the transplant being available.
“The person on the phone asked if I was Susan and she asked how I was feeling and then said, ‘How would you like to have a transplant today?’” Popp said. “I yelled into the phone I would love to. I asked when they wanted me there, and they answered yesterday.”
They arrived in Columbus at 2 p.m. that day and were in surgery by 3:30 p.m. She was in the hospital for 13 days, and they stayed in the Columbus area for an additional two weeks to be available for more testing every day.
Now, Popp said that she is now feeling amazing since receiving her new lung.
“Every day I get up and I can breathe again,” Popp said. She added that she went through a number of oxygen tanks a day prior to the transplant, using between 30-40 large tanks to get her to her weekly visits to doctors and the hospital.
On the third day after her surgery, Popp was breathing room air without the aid of an oxygen tank.
“That is the most amazing thing to me,” Popp said. “The tiniest thing means so much to me. I never thought I’d say this but doing laundry and dishes and cooking for my husband again are all things I am just excited about.”
Popp credited her husband for helping her get through her illness, who took care of them both during that time with doing the shopping, laundry, cooking, and other day-to-day chores in addition to helping Popp with her health and getting around to doctor and hospital visits.
“My husband had a lot to do,” Popp said. “He kept me going … I was pretty bad towards the end.”
Popp continues to be thankful every day.
“First of all I thank God every day for his blessings, my donor and donor family, the many doctors and nurses, my husband, my family and friends and all the people and churches who prayed for me, the students of Piqua Catholic School and Troy Christian, and all those that sent cards, visited me, sent food, and letters of encouragement. I appreciate all of you,” Popp said.
Popp is also working on reaching out to her donor’s family. Right now, Popp’s donor and the donor’s family are anonymous to her.
“I don’t know who my donor is,” Popp said. “I have no clue if it’s a man or woman, young or old.”
Popp said that she has had some “soul searching nights” preparing to write a letter to her donor family. Popp will correspond anonymously through an agency, who would also help the family meet Popp if the donor family was interested.
“I hope to be able to meet them sometime,” Popp said.
The full meaning of this lung transplant is not lost on Popp as she describes reconciling receiving the gift of almost a new life for her with the fact that it came because someone else lost his or her life.
“There is an emotional, spiritual, and soul searching that goes on about why I was saved and someone else died,” Popp said. “My donor died being kind enough to donate (his or her) organs to save the lives of others. I am so thankful for this wonderful gift.”
Popp encouraged others to be organ donors, adding that she is thankful and mindful of her donor every day.
“One organ donor can save and change the lives of eight people,” Popp said. There are also over 120,000 people in the U.S. waiting for transplants, she added.
“I wake up everyday breathing on my own, no oxygen (tanks), and I say a prayer for my donor and donor family. I will live every day to the fullest in his or her honor,” Popp said.
Popp said that if she could talk to her donor, “I would say thank you so much for saving my life. By being a donor, I get to live on each day with my husband, my children, and eight grandchildren. I would tell him/her that I will never take this gift for granted. I would tell him/her I will make the best of every day their gift has given me. I will continue on being positive and thankful for my wonderful new lung.”
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 451-3336