Steve Hanna is living proof that the organ donation system works. Undergoing a transplant, for Hanna, is nothing new.
Nine years ago, while visiting his sister in New Mexico, Hanna woke up with pain in his chest that was moving into his shoulder.
With the nearest hospital two hours away, Hanna’s sister Sharon, didn’t want to waste any time. They called ahead, letting the EMT’s know what was going on and met them in route.
In Albuquerque, Hanna underwent a series of testing where it was discovered he had suffered a heart attack and due to hereditary issues, his heart was failing. When he left the hospital he had been given six months to live.
While awaiting a heart transplant he was given a pump to help with the function of his heart. Within a week he had to have another procedure when they discovered a leak in the pump. After three months Hanna received the heart he needed.
It was during this time that doctors noticed Hanna had one non-functioning kidney and the other was only partially working. A man Hanna’s age should have function at 100 parts per billion, Hanna’s single kidney was only at 40 parts per billion.
Doctors observed the progress of his kidney carefully, knowing it would only have eight to ten years before it stopped working all together.
When one organ quits, the other organs have a way of over-working to make up for the loss. This, along with all the medication Hanna had to take to help prevent his body from rejecting his new heart, took its toll on his internal organs, and as predicted, nine years later, Hanna is facing a kidney transplant.
The wait for a donor can take many years. Much of this is simply because of the public being uneducated.
Hanna was told the wait for a cadaver kidney could take three to five years. Time Hanna didn’t have without having to undergo dialysis.
According to Sue Miller, Manager of the Kidney Transplant Program at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, half the kidney transplants they do each year are done through living donors.
“What most people don’t know, is that living donors don’t have to be a family member. There just aren’t enough donors available,” said Miller.
A long time friend of Hanna’s Barb Starosick of Boelus, came forward and offered to be a donor. Starosick, who works in the medical profession, couldn’t bear to see a friend endure dialysis.
“With my nursing background, I knew how grueling dialysis can be.”
Starosick and Hanna have known each other since they were young kids. As life sometimes happens, and people go different ways, so did Hanna and Starosick.
At a wedding anniversary party, after not seeing Hanna for 30 years, Starosick was shocked to see how fragile her friend had become.
“After we got caught up on the past and I was told he was on a transplant list, I didn’t even think, it wasn’t a discussion or a question. You just offered to get tested.”
Starosick and Hanna went through about a year and a half of testing and preparing. Test include not only physical requirements but also mental and emotional readiness.
With today's advancements in medicine, having an exact match isn’t as necessary as in years past.
For Hanna and Starosick there were a few road bumps along the way, but they have worked through them and overcome each with the help of the doctors and staff involved.
Hanna has worked full-time up until two weeks ago when he headed to Omaha to start preparing for surgery. He will receive medication to prepare his body for the new kidney and remain under observation so doctors can be sure he is ready for the procedure.
Hanna’s sister Sharon expresses her feeling towards her brother and the strength he has shown.
“I’ve always admired Steven. He worked through all of this, with some sick days of course, but he chose to keep going.”
Keeping a good outlook on life has been possible by Hanna’s circle of family and friends who have supported him during his struggles.
“What it all comes down to is wanting to live to see tomorrow. I spend a lot of time in hospitals and see many people worse off than me.”
Starosick is a single parent with two kids who have supported her decision. They will be there with her during the surgery and recovery.
Starosick says there was some anxiety in the beginning, but this whole journey has taught them the importance of the gift of life.
“What better gift can you give in life, than the gift of life?”
Hanna and his family are all grateful for Starosick’s willingness to help out. Sharon knows how fortunate they are to have this opportunity.
“It is so incredible that Barb would do this for us.”
Recovery time in the hospital for Hanna, barring any complications, is about a week’s time. Doctors will be watching for signs that his body is rejecting the new kidney and also for infections.
When Hanna is well enough to return home, he will be monitored for relapse, high blood cholesterol levels and a constant watch for rejection.
The biggest risk for this is during the first year. It will be closely watched by regular lab work and follow-up appointments. A regimen of medications, around 45 pills a day, will help Hanna down his road to recovery.
Starosick will remain in the hospital three to four days and with a basic healthy diet and way of life, should face a full recovery.
A benefit, with help from the Lions Club, Paul Ottun and Donna Beavers, has been planned for Hanna April 16 at the Municipal Building.
A meal, prepared by Ed Oxford, will begin at 5 p.m. and an auction will follow at 7 p.m.