The poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley tells a story of survival and perseverance, a story of an unconquerable soul. April Cogdell has that unconquerable soul.
Forced to live her life with Cystic Fibrosis, even from birth, she did not let it define her. The strength of her mind and body gave her 17 years, unlike the average CF patient. Diagnosed at the late age of 5, she was able to thrive outside of the hospital, and without the limiting trail of an IV line or feeding tube, both of which haunt so many CF patients. CF was a worthy opponent, though, and April couldn’t serve aces on every turn.
At the age of 17, April grew weak and tired, clearly a marked difference from the vigor with which she usually operated. Through blue nail beds and ice-cold fingers, the doctors could tell that April’s CF was coming at her full force. With her lung function test results, the doctors said April shouldn’t have even been able to walk into the hospital. But again, what match was CF for April’s tenacity?
Through the collapse of her left lung, then her right, April fought! After the collapse of her right lung, she went to Duke for evaluation for a new set of lungs. Once in Durham, there came a point where, for the first time, April became somewhat of an underdog. Air pockets in her lungs kept her heart from beating strong. A fix was needed quickly—that’s all she remembers. In the ICU, she was placed on a ventilator, but had to be heavily sedated because, of course, she tried to fight the vent, as any tough warrior would. Infections and raging fevers led doctors to tell April’s family that getting a match for lungs soon, still might not be soon enough.
And yet, in spite of the menacing years, she remained unafraid. April’s fever broke on August 6th, 2009 and she was taken in later that evening in for the transplantation of her brand new lungs. She won the set, but the match was not over yet. She still faced rehabilitation, as every transplant recipient must. No surprise, though, April regained her strength quickly, though it arguably never left her. After a few weeks, she could walk the mall with no wheelchair or oxygen! April emerged the victor.
In true form, April finished high school, and now attends the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. To an outsider, April looks no different than any other soon-to-be graduate heading off to Physician Assistant School. But she is so much more than that. She’s a survivor! And while the lungs inside of her may not have always been her own, her heart is! April is the master of her fate, the captain of her soul.