Interview with Bill Poplett

Interviewed by Zack Harrison in November 2000

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH: 

 

Bill Poplett suffers from a rare hereditary disorder called Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency.  This disease is caused by a lack of the enzyme trypsin, which is produced in the liver.  It causes a deterioration of lung tissue.  This disease usually pops up between the ages of 25-35, and is frequently misdiagnosed as asthma or bronchitis.  Poplett was diagnosed when he was 35, and after a two and a half year wait, had a successful lung transplant.  Since then, he has been very active physically and as a volunteer for Alpha-1, lung transplants, and organ transplantation in general.

 

Excerpts from Transcript

 

Excerpt 1 | Excerpt 2 | Excerpt 3 | Excerpt 4 | Excerpt 5

 

Excerpt 1

 

Background: 

Here Bill Poplett discusses the impact of Alpha-1 on his family.

 

Excerpt:

Well, because of my young age, and it always affects people in their prime years actually, where they finally started getting their  families in order.  My daughters at the time were seven and roughly thirteen, or six and thirteen, at the time that I came down with this.  It had a big impact because when you're used to being man of the house, you're used to doing things.  I was very athletic and then not being able to actually be a real father or a husband even, as far as athletics, because I just didn't have the energy.  So your whole life, everything changes about you, and has a big impact on your family life.  Luckily I had a very strong family.

 

In regards to the wife, she's able to, you know, keep an upper lip and everything.  But you can always tell that it was still always in the back of her mind.  She had to take on a lot of the roles that I used to do, everything from yard care to what have you.  And it's very hard for an individual to give up things, and to have to count on other people, but there's a point in time when you don't have any choice.  Unfortunately, I was used to doing things such as Little League for the daughter, helping the coach and stuff like that.  Then I had to get out of it because I just didn't have enough air to go out.  She was into Girl Scouts and stuff, and I couldn't be around the campfires.  Just even the hiking and stuff like that, I didn't have enough air.  And as it progressed, it got more continuously worse to the point where I couldn't go more than ten to twenty feet without feeling like I just ran a mile.  All this has a direct impact on your psyche, let alone your physical aspect.

 

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Excerpt 2

 

Background: 

In this excerpt, Bill Poplett describes waiting and carrying a pager.

 

Excerpt:

You're given a beeper and it's the anxiety when that beeper goes off of knowing that, you know, you have to make a quick phone call up to the transplant center, find out if it's a for real one or if it's somebody, unfortunately, they might get hold of a bad number.  It might be anything from somebody needing some food for supper or somebody's in a drug bust or something, you never know with the beeper system.  But normally you would receive your call through the telephone and you hear first-hand from the transplant coordinator what type of lung that they have, whether or not they feel that it's a possibility, and they'll tell you upfront.  They don't do any kind of testing--some people feel that they test to see what kind of reaction they'll get out of you.  No, because this is very stressful.  I've had two dry runs where I was in the car and headed up north and to be turned around, and on the freeway.  When they call you on the cell phone, it is very challenging.  But I knew it would happen, I just had to be patient.  

 

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Excerpt 3

 

Background: 

Poplett was asked his thoughts about his donor.

 

ZH:  Was there any feeling afterwards, that you received new life and fresh life only because someone else had to lose their life?

 

Excerpt:

Well yes, I knew that right from the beginning, as a matter of fact, as I was laying there before I went into the surgery, that's one of the things I did say was a prayer for those people, because of his generosity, then I would be able to live through his death.  And knowing that he [and his parents] had that much character, I really appreciated that.

 

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Excerpt 4

 

Background: 

This excerpt is Poplett's response to the question of whether the physical or emotional aspect of transplantation was most difficult.

 

Excerpt:

I'd say the emotional aspect because the physical they can always control.  Pain relief medication is wonderful.  I had a hernia type operation that proved to be a lot more painful and healing took a lot longer than the transplant did.  And it was just amazing the difference between the two.  I'd say emotionally because you're always thinking every day, thinking about the person [donor] and what his life meant to me, I really do.

 

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Excerpt 5

 

Background: 

In these excerpts, Poplett describes some of his post-transplant life and whether he was back to normal.

 

Excerpt:

Well I'm still not working, number one, the reason being is they don't want you going back to work right away because you're still trying to manage your medications as well as the life.  You're still susceptible to too many things as far as infections and such as that.  So it takes takes a little while before they'll actually release you.  I figure maybe next year I might try to go back and maybe go on to school or what have you.  But as far as my lifestyle, the family, we've gotten back into the swing of things pretty much as quickly as we could.

 

Limitations?  I can't think of anything right now.  I mean everything I've tried to do since the transplant I've been able to do, maybe not as much as I want.  I'm trying to work out every day.  I usually do eight miles in the morning before I have breakfast.... The main thing is just to keep active and try to watch what the medications are doing and what your body's telling you so you don't start into a rejection spin.  

 

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For more information, contact Dr. Mary Jo Festle, Associate Professor of History at Elon University.

Email: festle@elon.edu

This page last updated 11/24/02