Remember that old adage “that which doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”? If this is true, Becky Kopprasch could easily take home the prize for having superior human strength. We’ve all survived bad days, trying experiences, and tough times. Usually, though, the bad is followed by some positive, the downs have ups, and everybody gets a good laugh at the end. Well, this hasn’t been one of those usual times. For approximately 365 days of Becky’s life things went from bad to worse. If not for the words of encouragement and inspiration from strangers and friends alike, Becky may not have made it to the other side. Yet, here she stands, and her strong arms are still swinging.
It all began in April 2008, the night that Becky and her boyfriend Harry were in a fender bender. Bam! Sitting at a stoplight, a car slid into their tail without even trying to stop. Other than the three herniated discs in Becky’s neck and the $5,000 in damages to her car, the two were fine. They dealt with the minor aches and inconveniences and felt lucky to be alive. However, one week later, something horrible started happening to Becky. Sitting at her desk at work, she felt a sudden, shooting pain in the back of her head. Her ears rang and the entire left side of her body went numb. Calling a co-worker via speakerphone, Becky started seeing in double vision and began vomiting uncontrollably. She was taken to the Emergency Room where an ER doctor told her she had vertigo. Vertigo? She couldn’t stand up, yet she was discharged. Something didn’t seem right.
Becky took a few days off from work and went to see a neurologist. After extensive tests, he determined she’d had a blot clot in her neck that had caused her to suffer from a major stroke. He told her to stop taking her birth control pills STAT. From there, Becky saw a hematologist who informed her that she had a genetic blood clotting disorder that had never been detected. It caused her blood to clot more easily than most and required medical monitoring. That August, Becky was put on a blood thinner called Coumadin. She had her blood drawn on a weekly basis. For a brief time, things seemed to be back on track. Becky, Harry, and Harry’s daughter, Emily, (who lived with them full-time) returned to their family life as normally as possible, remembering their good fortune in surviving everything they’d been through. Alas, normalcy did not continue for long.
In September Becky noticed that her period was a few days late. She and Harry had dreamed of having children one day, and one day was now here! What should have been a happy accident turned out to be a disaster thanks to one, somewhat difficult to pronounce word: Coumadin. After taking not just one but three home pregnancy tests, Becky was convinced the pregnancy was for real and her late period was not just a side effect of the new medication. Remembering the nurse’s words to “make sure not to get pregnant” while on Coumadin, Becky realized she had already been pregnant when it was first prescribed! Calling her doctor, she was told to cease taking the medication immediately and come in to see the doctor. She was given a new blood thinner, Lovinox, which needed to be injected directly into her stomach throughout the rest of her pregnancy. Her doting partner Harry learned how to do the injections and injected her religiously every morning. But, they were not out of the woods yet. In fact, Becky’s terrible year was just getting started.
“Becky emerged from the darkness of her terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year and finally saw some light at the end of her yearlong tunnel.”
A visit to her gynecologist confirmed the pregnancy and Becky went back to her hematologist to learn more about the complications her clotting disorder might hold for herself and her baby. There she learned some awful news. Because of her five weeks on Coumadin, Becky’s baby would most likely suffer from major birth defects. The doctor told her it was “absolutely necessary” to terminate. Both Becky and Harry were horrified. Although the pregnancy had not been planned, they were excited about expanding their family and the news was devastating. However, as much as it killed Becky to accept the rationale, it seemed like terminating the pregnancy was for the best. Spinning with grief, in the back of their minds Harry and Becky knew they could try again. So, they went forward with the procedure. As it turns out, they were wrong.
On January 22, 2009, the bad got much, much worse. Sitting at work on an otherwise ordinary Thursday, Becky received an unexpected call from Harry’s brother asking her to come home right away. Confused because he hadn’t explained himself, she returned the call and got a hold of Harry’s mom instead. Harry’s mom repeated the same thing, “Come home.” She wouldn’t tell Becky why, only that she couldn’t tell her on the phone. Becky wouldn’t take no for an answer. Why would you call somebody away from work in the middle of the day without an explanation? Peppered with constant questioning, Harry’s mom finally came out with it. “He’s gone, Becky.” Just like that, Harry was dead. He had died at the edge of their bed, the autopsy report showing that he had an undiagnosed heart condition that led to his untimely death.
The next few days were a blur. Becky made a photo DVD of their three years together and Harry’s life before her and gathered some of his favorite things as she and the family made arrangements for his memorial service. Speaking at the service, she recited the Valentine’s Day “pre-vows” Harry had asked they write for one another. Then, almost as soon as it began, it was over. As was Becky’s happy family life. Emily went to live with her mother and Becky moved out of their apartment, unable to bear living there alone. Her co-workers had kindly started a fund for her, knowing she’d have trouble going it alone and possibly needing to find a new home. And, her parents let her move back home for a few months as she adjusted to life without Harry.
Still reeling from all that had happened, Becky was also dealing with about $50,000 in credit card debt she’d accrued over the course of 10 years. Familiar with the story of a woman named Karyn who’d started a web site to get out of $20,000 of shopping debt by asking 20,000 people to look at the site and donate $1. Not only did Karyn earn her $20,000 back, but she also wrote a book about her story. In desperate need of help, Becky thought she’d give the same thing a-go. In February 2009, she launched her own web site, http://www.savebecky.com/. What she didn’t realize at the time was that it wouldn’t be money that would save her.
Becky got a few small donations through her site. But the trickle of money also brought a great deal of controversy. People felt like she was using Harry’s death as a way to make easy cash. They commented on how she should have been raising money for Emily since she’d lost her dad. What these folks didn’t know was that Emily would receive a monthly stipend from NYS until the age of 18 and that she’d get a free scholarship to any SUNY school due to Harry’s death. True, Emily had lost her father. But, she lived with her mother and was financially taken care of. Becky, on the other hand, needed help. She was all alone. The controversial situation was overwhelming and Becky was in a fragile enough emotional state already. She took the link off her site and apologized to anybody who had felt she was “profiteering” from Harry’s death.
No longer receiving donations from Save Becky, Becky realized she was getting much more from the site than she’d ever hoped for. Instead of money, people sent her emails. She was inundated with words of comfort and support. To her surprise, she found that these kindnesses kept her going. The emails from others in similar situations and how they coped with their issues inspired her to keep plodding along. In fact, she still receives several emails a day and relies on this encouragement and inspiration almost as much as she did in the beginning. Her social connection to the world out helps light her fire every day and gives her the strength to know she will be okay.
With the coming of May 2009, Becky emerged from the darkness of her terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year and finally saw some light at the end of her yearlong tunnel. She lived for her weekly visits with Emily; the two of them have been able to keep their bond even though they no longer live together. She found an apartment she could afford in a great area and was able to use the fund her co-workers had started for her to put down a deposit and the first month’s rent. She got a kitten and named her Gracie. Even though her parents worried about her moving out on her own, it was nice to regain some independence and it was even nicer to again have something to love and take care of, something that depended on her the way Harry and Emily had. Gracie gave her a purpose and reason to get out of bed in the morning. Things were on the mend. Then, Becky lost her job and for one split second everything seemed to suck again. As it happens, what could have signaled the continuation of her demise has actually turned out to be an incredible gift. Coming off the heels of her horrendous year, armed with the love and support of her family, friends, and new Web cronies, Becky is taking charge.
Becky had created and maintained the Twitter page at her last job and it became one of the top five ways consumers found their way to the company’s web site. She also started a Twitter page for a musician friend, who received hundreds of hits to his web site within a matter of days. She liked doing it so much she even made one for Gracie. Thinking about how much she enjoyed this work and the inspiration she’s found with her Save Becky web site, it dawned on Becky that what she really wants to do career-wise is work in social media. Losing her job was just the impetus she needed to take that plunge! Instead of continuing on a downward spiral with rotten luck, she was turning it around. She started a blog, http://www.basicallybecky.com and started speaking to companies about their social media efforts and how she could help them achieve their business goals through social media, as she had done for her previous employer.
A firm believer that everything happens for a reason even though she is yet to figure out the reason for all she’s been through, Becky is currently networking and making new contacts so that she can follow her new dream and create a wonderful, lovely, no bad, very nice year for herself in 2010.
Thank you Becky, for sharing your Story with us.
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© 2009 by Tamar Burris and Story of My Life®