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Tori Kopp

December 2013

Nursing student gives the gift of life

Tori Kopp was much like the 350 or so other souls who had the insides of their cheeks swabbed back on the Sept. 26, 2012.

It seemed the right thing to do. It was consistent and supportive of the mission of Avila University, where she was then a brand new junior student to the School of Nursing. She also happened to be a member of the Avila Student Nursing Organization and Colleges Against Cancer, which helped sponsor the bone marrow drive inside Marian Center.

But, like most, she really never thought her bone marrow would be matched and she’d receive a phone call.

“I did it mostly out of obligation,” said Kopp, now a senior and on course to receive her bachelor’s in nursing this May. “Six months later, I got a call telling me I was a match.”

Just like that, Kopp’s world experienced a seismic jolt. She had a huge decision to make. Was she ready to commit at least the next three months to tests and basically be on call 24/7 for a bone marrow transplant, or did she carry on with her studies and busy life?

“I made the commitment,” she said. “I thought it was the right thing to do.”

In April of 2013, Kopp had blood drawn for further testing, then waited on the patient’s status. She received a call in June telling her the transplant was no longer a viable option. The patient wasn’t doing well.

“I was pretty upset about it, because I’d gotten my hopes up and it was summer, as a student the perfect time for me to do it,” she said.

In August, just as she was getting ready to accept a job at Children’s Mercy Hospital and start classes, she received another call asking her to extend her commitment to October. The next week, she flew across the country for a physical examination. The patient had made what doctors called a miraculous rally and was strong enough for transplant.

Kopp underwent a peripheral stem cell harvest, which in and of itself wasn’t too painful or uncomfortable, she said. However, each day the week before the procedure, she had to endure twice-daily injections to make her bones produce and release more stem cells. She said the bone pain caused by the injections was substantial.

“Quite honestly, I was glad it was enduring, because it helped add to the experience,” she said. “It helped me truly embrace it.”

The procedure of the DKMS Foundation bone marrow registry is to give updates on recipients to donors at six weeks, six months and one year. Kopp said she recently received her six-week update on the recipient of her bone marrow, and the recipient is doing well. The stem cells had grafted to the bone, and the patient was expected to be home for Thanksgiving.

“It was the best news I could’ve received,” Kopp said.

At the one-year anniversary of the transplant, Kopp said she can learn the identity of the recipient … if she wants. Now that it has become personal and she is fully invested, that’s an easy choice.

“I do want to know,” she said. “I figure, I went through it all. I might as well take it all the way.”

A native of Concordia, Mo., Kopp decided she wanted to experience a larger college straight out of high school, so she attended Kansas University her first two years. But, when it came to selecting where she’d attend nursing school, Avila, with its smaller class sizes and 1-on-1 student-teacher interaction, was an easy choice.

As it turned out, Avila led her to the biggest decision of her young life. It’s a decision she’s very proud of and a journey that promises to stick with her the rest of her life.

“It’s all been a huge growing process,” Kopp said. “There’s a humility and pride that comes with it, a pride you carry with you. It was so worth it.

“And, how this came about was a neighbor came forth with four grandsons in need of a transplant. Avila’s mission of serving the dear neighbor has been relevant throughout the whole process. We’ve now served a dear neighbor near and far.” AU

Media Contact: Bob Luder, 816.501.2434