By Cara Zarecor
Lincoln Hopper, toddler son of Dyer couple Zach Hopper and Chelsea Cunningham, who received a heart transplant at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, finally made his way back home to Dyer with his parents and 17-month-old sister Lynlee on July 3.
Angie Jones, Lincoln’s maternal grandmother, said that the family spent a grand total of 292 days away from home while Lincoln was receiving the surgeries and treatments that led up to the receipt of his new heart. The family stayed at close-by FedEx House during this time.
Jones described the events leading up to Lincoln’s heart transplant. Because time is of the essence in these matters, Lincoln’s transplant surgery began approximately four hours before his new heart actually arrived. The family was nervous about the new heart arriving on time, but it did.
The family also felt deep sorrow for the family of the child who lost his life so that Lincoln’s could be saved. Jones said that donor families are allowed to know who organ recipients are, but it is up to them to reveal themselves to the organ recipients. So far, Lincoln’s family has not heard from the donor family, but Jones said she prays for them every day because she knows they are hurting.
When family friend and neighbor Emily Bradford heard that Lincoln was coming home, she notified the Dyer Fire Department. Lincoln became a celebrated favorite of the Memphis Fire Department during his stay at LeBonheur, so Bradford knew that a big “welcome home” from Lincoln’s hometown firefighters would be perfect. Dyer brought trucks and lined up at the end of Lincoln’s street. Jones said she also put out announcement signs around town, and several showed up to welcome her grandson home.
In transitioning to home life again, Jones said that Lincoln is “the happiest little boy.” She said he is eating well and loves to play outside. He plays with Lynlee and recently experienced the joy of jumping in puddles after a recent rain.
Lincoln’s new heart is expected to last 10-15 years, and some new hearts last well beyond that in children, as the new heart grows with the child.
For now, Lincoln can’t be around anyone outside his immediate family for six months because he needs that time to build up his immune system. He takes immunosuppressants and is on a strict regimen of anti-rejection medicine that must be taken twice a day. Should a dose be missed or vomited up, the family will have to make immediate contact with a transplant team to receive further instructions.
Many more trips to LeBonheur are in order for Lincoln and his family. Right now, he has to have a heart catheter to check for signs of rejection every four weeks. He also has to have regular lab tests to see if his medicine needs to be adjusted. Later this week Lincoln will also undergo a physical therapy evaluation for strengthening.
Jones said that the family is relieved that Lincoln is no longer hooked up to machines for survival. The only thing Lincoln is hooked up to now is an oxygen tank “just for comfort” at night while he sleeps.
The “Love for Lincoln” account, set up by paternal great-grandparents Jim and Betty Hopper at Centennial Bank, is still open. Lincoln and his family still need and ask for your prayers, love and support.