Assignment 7

Teen desperately pleads for life-saving heart transplant

Thursday, March 10, 2011

An Alaska teenager is unable to return home from the Bay Area. She's here waiting for a heart transplant, and her condition is too fragile.

Hannah Ahrens is learning new things every day while she waits for a heart transplant at Lucille Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. The 15-year-old is going to school inside the hospital. It's provided by the Palo Alto School District and it helps her keep her mind off her situation.

"She was born with only one pumping chamber, instead of two," Dr. David Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal said Hannah had a surgical procedure after she was born, to help her heart pump blood, but that procedure is not working well anymore. Her weak heart makes Hannah feel tired all the time.

"Some of the proteins she's losing need to be replaced. So she comes into the hospital every few weeks for intravenous replacement therapy," he said.

While we were visiting, we saw Hannah starting to have a reaction to the infusion she had the day before. She tried to be brave and tough it out. She just got worse, and it turned into a terrible migraine that required medical intervention, but she is OK now. Hannah is going to turn sweet 16 this year, and the best gift she could ever get is a new heart. She is a precious, living reminder of the need for organ donors.

"It's not part of daily life experience. It involves matters of death and very few of us want to approach those issues unless we have to," Rosenthal said.

"We do want to encourage people to check the box on their driver's license, so all of us can be in a position to help others, even in our own demise," Honey Meir Levy from the Ronald McDonald House said.

Meir Levy said the house is a place where Hannah and her mom can call home, for as long as they need it.

"Our last family from Anchorage was at the house for more than two years, so of course, we are hoping Hannah has a quicker and completely good outcome," she said.

Hannah's mom is tied to a cell phone, waiting for the call that will change her daughter's life. They are away from the rest of the family in anchorage, Alaska. So they came to visit during spring break from school.

"Hannah is fun to hang out with, and she's funny," Hanna's brother 10-year-old Zach said.

"I just wish for her to get well and come home as soon as possible, so things can go back to normal," Hanna's 14-year-old sister Kira said.

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Tags:
organ donations, palo alto, Lucille Packard Children's Hospital, assignment 7, cheryl jennings
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