By Cara Zarecor
A Dyer child who has been in LeBonheur Children’s Hospital for more than 180 days, is still waiting on a heart transplant.
Little Lincoln Hopper hardly needs an introduction nowadays, but he is the 2-year-old son of Dyer couple Zach Hopper and Chelsey Cunningham.
Out of the 188 days that Lincoln has been waiting on a heart, he has been on the 1-A status wait list for 158 days. Since Lincoln weighs only 24 lbs, only the heart of a child who weighs between 16-30 lbs. will fit into Lincoln’s chest cavity. Additionally, that small child who will lose his/her life to give Lincoln a heart must have the same blood type along with other criteria.
Going back and forth between the hospital and the FedEx Family House has become a way of life for Lincoln’s parents and his 1-year-old sister Lynlee. On the weekends, both Angie Jones, Lincoln’s maternal grandmother, and Zach’s father Scotty Hopper come to visit and help their children out with Lynlee. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic however, their visits have been abruptly and indefinitely curtailed.
As of this week and going forward indefinitely, Lincoln can only have two visitors, who will naturally be his parents. Jones said she understands this but is heartbroken that she doesn’t know when her next visit can take place.
Jones said that in December, the family almost lost Lincoln. He’d become infected with a cold-type virus that took a harsh toll on his body. A decision was made to put him on a ventilator to help him breathe so that he could rest and recover from the virus, but when medication was administered and professionals inserted the breathing tube the first time, he coded for a full five minutes. Lincoln was revived by CPR and then successfully put on the ventilator, where he rested and recuperated from the virus for eight days.
In January, when Lincoln became stronger, he underwent another surgery to install a VAD (ventricular assistive device). Jones said that this new device has helped tremendously with Lincoln’s blood flow and oxygen levels and he is doing great right now. Being constantly “hooked up” to both this device and an IV, however, it takes three people to help Lincoln move around to walk or ride his tricycle or anything requiring his mobility.
Lincoln is having some happy days and is very smart, Jones said. For his birthday back in November, he got his own iPad. Lincoln uses his iPad to Facetime with his cousins Weston (4) and Jagger (2), who are Jones’ two other grandsons. He knows how to open and close programs on his iPad and his parents’ phones, too. Lincoln loves watching YouTube videos for kids, especially Blippy. He recognizes and can say his colors, every day is learning to say more words and loves trucks.
The outpouring of love has been unlike anything Jones has ever seen. The nurses and staff at both LeBonheur and the FedEx House are known by their first names now. Jones said that nurses come along and scoop up Lynlee to give the family small breaks all the time. They even bring gifts to the children. Lincoln’s favorite nurse is a male nurse named Juhl.
Lincoln’s newest friends are a group of firemen from Memphis Fire Station. When they came to meet Lincoln for the first time, they brought him a t-shirt, patches and stickers. They asked for Zach’s phone number so that they could keep in touch, and last Monday they came to visit again, bringing Lincoln his own helmet, turn-out jacket with his name on it and a real walkie-talkie so that he can talk to them anytime he likes. Lincoln excitedly watches from his hospital room window as they go by and blare their sirens and flash their lights just for him. As soon as Lincoln is able to go outside, his firemen friends have promised to bring the fire truck for him to explore.
Jones said that since Lincoln’s family has been in Memphis, they’ve only gotten to come home to Dyer five times, and those were for Lynlee’s regular pediatrician checkups.
Jones works as a nurse for Tennessee State Veterans Home in Humboldt and is living in Zach and Chelsey’s home in Dyer and keeping up the utility bills. Zach has been promised that his job will remain secure at Rough Country in Newbern for when the family is able to return home. Both Jones and Zach have taken advantage of Family Medical Leave Act. Jones said that both their workplaces have been “wonderful and supportive.” She said that all the donations the family has received have helped tremendously with their other monthly expenses, including having to buy meals and personal items, but those expenses will keep on going as long as Lincoln waits on a heart.
In all her life, Jones said, she’s never seen more evidence that good people still exist. Aside from the outpouring of love and financial support, Jones gets her strength from prayer. She asks that all who may be reading this to please stay in constant prayer for her grandson and his family.
If you feel moved to make a monetary donation, a “Love for Lincoln” account has been set up at Centennial Bank in Rutherford. Lincoln’s entire family appreciates all you have done and will do.