Name: Jody Hanson
Occupation: Nurse/heart-lung transplant coordinator
Where we found her: United Way silent auction
You’re a heart-lung transplant coordinator. That sounds like pretty intense work.
It can be. I take care of patients who come for evaluation for heart or lung transplants. I follow along with them … until the time they receive their transplant. Some people wait for years, so I get to know them very well. We take care of kids as well, so I have kids waiting for heart transplants. There was a little boy who came from Mexico and waited here, at the Ronald McDonald House, for over a year until he received his heart transplant.
For all the success stories, there have to be tough stories, too. There are. Sometimes we lose people on the waiting list, and it’s hard because they put all their faith and hope in us that they will receive a transplant in time. Those can be very difficult. Fortunately, we don’t lose as many people as you might think. With all the new technology, there are a lot of ways that people are able to live longer while they wait for transplant.
How do you spend your spare time? Right now, I’m back in school, so I don’t have a lot of spare time! I just have a two-year degree. In order to stay in the position I’ve been in for so many years, I now need to obtain my degree. I’m at Augsburg College doing that. I’m involved in singing groups in my church, too. And Ron and I are involved in The Promise, a passion play musical with our church, Bethel. That’s just starting up again—and Ron’s the producer—so that keeps us busy this time of year.
Ron is your husband. Yes. We’ve been married 33 years.
How did you meet? We were both right out of high school, in our first year of college. Our first date wasn’t really our first date. Ron was going to go out with my roommate, and I was going out with this other guy. It was going to be a first date for all of us. Ron happened to come over a day or two before to talk to [my roommate], but she wasn’t home so we wound up talking. At the end of our double date, I walked him to the door and he kissed me good night. We’ve been together ever since. My roommate wasn’t really interested in him, so there was no big conflict there!
Tell me a high school memory? I went to school in Kenyon. I went out for volleyball and basketball, and I was no good at either of them—but I stuck it out! I’d sit way at the end of the bench because I knew I wasn’t going to get called in. One time I sat next to the coach, and we measured how long it took me to get back to the end of the bench as players came back in.
What did you want to be when you grew up? I don’t think I really thought about careers. I just wanted to be married and be a mom.
Did you get to be a mom? I got to be a mom. We have two daughters. Our youngest is Angela. She’s 28 and she lives in Fridley now. And we have our oldest daughter, Ashley, who died of cancer at 23. So I was very lucky to have them both.
I’m sorry. How long ago did you lose Ashley? It will be eight years. We have had a lot of help from family and friends. We actually joined a group called the Compassionate Friends—people who have lost children at any age. It’s a support group and we’ve stayed pretty active with that. That’s been very helpful. … My faith and my church were so supportive through it all, too. And it helps just knowing I’ll see her again.
Tell me about her. She was an amazing person, and she dealt with her cancer just amazingly. She never asked, “Why me?” One time we had gone to a class at Mayo—they have this class for women to teach you to put on makeup, and wear wigs and scarves [during treatment]. And this elderly woman came in and was very teary and weepy and kept saying, “I don’t understand this. Why me? Why me?” Afterwards, as Ashley and I walked out, she said, “Why not me? If not me, it will be somebody.” She was very accepting of all of it.
Did that help you? A little bit. Yes. Because I was saying, “Why her? Why my little girl?” She held us up.
Advice you give others? I always encouraged my daughters to be independent. I’ve always encouraged them to be themselves and not to conform. And I’m so proud of my daughter Angie. I think she’s grown into an independent woman … who’s kind and caring, too.
How would others describe you? I’ve had people say that I’m always smiling. I would hope that they’d say that I’m caring, that I’m a hard worker. … That I try to go that extra mile for my patients.