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Jordy back in school after transplant

January 12, 1998

by Ric Dugan / staff photographer

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Jordy back in school after transplant

By DON AINES

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - As he swings from the monkey bars at the Tuscarora Elementary School playground, Jordy Carper seems like any other fifth-grader.

It would be hard to tell that seven months ago this active 11-year-old went through a life-or-death operation to replace his damaged lungs.

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Jordy returned to school Monday for the first time since his June 19 lung transplant at Los Angeles Children's Hospital. He suffers from cystic fibrosis, a congenital disease that caused his lungs to deteriorate.

"Seeing all my friends" was the best part of returning to school, Jordy said. "Boring, not fun," was how he described his months of recuperation.

"We stayed out there for about five months," he said of his time in Los Angeles. He returned to Martinsburg in October, but was back in California last week for a checkup.

"I'm doing good," he said.

"They want us to come out every three months, but we can't afford that," his mother, Melissa Carper, said Monday. Jordy continues to see a specialist at Children's Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Melissa Carper said the donated lobes are expanding, but won't actually grow.

"The doctors said they're functioning perfectly," she said.

The lung tissue that saved Jordy's life came from Melissa Carper's cousin, Debbie Schoenadel, of Lavale, Md., and Vicki Koher, of Powhatan Point, Ohio.

It has been a long and expensive journey to get Jordy to this point. Melissa Carper said she expects bills for the operations on Jordy and the donors and other expenses to approach $900,000, but "I would have given anything."

She said her husband Gary's medical insurance through the Teamsters Union covered 80 percent of the medical bills.

"We still have bills left over," Melissa Carper said. The 13 anti-rejection drugs and other medications Jordy will have to take four times a day for the rest of his life cost about $4,000 a month, she said.

The community raised about $65,000 to help pay the family's uncovered expenses, Melissa Carper said. Much of that came from the Walk for Jordy last March, and from two fund-raisers that Hall of Fame football player Sam Huff helped put together.

"I worried all day," his mother said of Jordy's first day back in the classroom.

It also was her first day back at Citicorp in Hagerstown after two years. The company allowed her to take a leave of absence while maintaining her seniority and benefits, she said.

Jordy was to return to school after Thanksgiving, but doctors advised him to stay home a while longer, according to Larry Hoerner, a guidance counselor at Tuscarora Elementary.

"It's really incredible," Hoerner said of Jordy's recovery. He said the youngster never complained as the disease took its toll and he was restricted to homebound schooling.

Jordy's challenges now are a bit more mundane.

"I kept up a little, but I still got behind," he said of his school work.

His friends were more anxious to get Jordy outside for recess than to be interviewed. Asked what she missed most about Jordy, classmate Emily Morrison said, "I love his impressions of Jim Carrey."

The Make-A-Wish Foundation arranged for Jordy to meet Carrey in 1996, Hoerner said later.

Now that he's back in school, Jordy hopes he'll be treated "like a normal kid," his mother said.

"He's never been a normal child. He's never gotten to do the things a normal 10- or 11-year-old boy does," she said.

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