Laurel's Hakeneis asking for support as she waits to be placed on lung transplant list
LAUREL — Breathing is something everyone does and, usually, it's done without effort.
It’s something most people take for granted.
Not Cheri Hakeneis, though. She is thankful for every breath.
Hakeneis, 49, has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). COPD is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs.
As a child, she became ill frequently, and the healing process was always long. In her 20s, she experienced bronchitis which turned into chronic bronchitis. She then received the diagnosis of COPD.
In the last few years, Cheri has become diabetic because of the medications she takes for COPD. She has had multiple hospital stays, including a stay in 2017 at the nursing home. “The doctors say I’m extremely young to have as bad of lungs as I do,” said Cheri.
She is in the final stage of the disease. The word terminal has been added to her diagnosis. Doctors have told her she only has an 18 percent chance to be alive in four years.
The only hope Hakeneis has for a life beyond middle-aged is to receive a double lung transplant.
Currently, Hakeneis is working with the Nebraska Medicine/UNMC Lung Transplant Program in order to be eligible for lungs. To become a candidate for a transplant, she must go through a comprehensive process. Hakeneis calls it her “homework.”
“I need to address everything going on in my body, " she said. "I need to have my body strong.”
Along with the comprehensive process during the pre-transplant stage, transplant candidates are expected to raise money to help offset costs associated with the procedure.
According to the American Organ Transplant Association many sources quote transplantation evaluation, surgery and aftercare to range between $100,000 to $700,000 for just the first year. Medication for immunosuppressants can range anywhere between $8500 to $36,000 per year.
Transplant recipients must live in Omaha after they are dismissed from the hospital for three months with an around-the-clock caregiver. Even with health insurance, there are still large expenses for families to cover to make the transplant a success.
Hakeneis and her husband Mike along with Chandra and Josh, two of their six children currently reside in Laurel.
They are very thankful for all the prayers and good friends for support.
Hakeneis said, “With God is how I deal with this (diagnosis).”
God is directing her path and giving her strength according to Hakeneis by placing her with the best people.
Hakeneis said when battling this progressive terminal disease, there is no turning back and this is where the best friends are found.
Hakeneis' husband agrees that without these good friends, they could not get through this life changing event.
Hakeneis’s lungs are currently functioning at 30 percent of their capacity. She is on oxygen and had recently dipped down to only 25 percent when she was ill.
Hakeneis will be eligible to be placed on the waiting list when her lung capacity reaches close to only 20 percent.
According to Nebraska Medicine, the transplant team will consider all information from interviews, a patient’s medical history, physical examination and diagnostic tests.
These steps will determine whether the patient is a candidate for lung transplantation. Once accepted by the program to have a lung transplant, the patient is placed on the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network (OPTN) waiting list.
Once this occurs, Hakeneis will have two hours to get to Omaha for the procedure. She is very optimistic.
“Nebraska Medicine is very selective and they told me I am an excellent candidate for a double lung transplant,” said Hakeneis.
Hakeneis is asking the community of Laurel and surrounding areas for support in fighting for her life.
A dinner and silent auction are scheduled for April 15 at the Laurel City Auditorium. The Concord Evangelical Free Church is accepting tax-deductible donations on behalf of the family. Any questions regarding the fund-raising meeting or donations can be directed to Bill Dickey (402) 369-2624.