Hannah Kiresuk receives her monthly intravenous chemotherapy on Friday. The treatment to combat an aggressive form of the muscular degenerative disease, myasthenia gravis, is rough enough for the 20-year-old from Roseville.
But enduring the morning without Hammy by her side will be especially painful.
Hammy the Cow is a stuffed animal the young woman has owned and cherished since creating him at a State Fair Build-A-Bear workshop 10 years ago. He’s been with her through 300 days in the hospital, 30 surgeries and countless doctor appointments.
Yes, she knows that “it seems kind of silly for a 20-year-old to want to have a stuffed animal,” said her mom, Teri Kiresuk, an occupational health specialist at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. “But that distraction is what helps her survive.”
Hannah thinks Hammy fell out of her backpack somewhere in the Minneapolis skyway system between Target Center and Mayo Square on Sunday, Feb. 28. Hannah and her dad, Alex, were on their way to Kieran’s Irish Pub to attend a fundraiser for Hannah’s much needed bone marrow transplant. Her family has posted pictures of Hannah and Hammy on Facebook (Team Hannah’s Courage), created posters and reached out to the media.
Hammy won’t be hard to identify. The little softy has several scars, hearing aids, a “trache” tube, blood pressure cuff and an oxygen mask. He wears a hat, gown and glasses. In short, he’s got pretty much everything Hannah has.
“He’s a cute little cow,” Teri said.
The surgical scars and loving touches are courtesy of Healing Helpers, (healinghelpers147.com), an Idaho-based nonprofit that brings comfort to children and young adults dealing with medical challenges by creating stuffed animals that duplicate their scars. Hannah found the organization online and has sent Hammy to Healing Helpers three times. In addition, she organized a high school charitable drive where she collected 300 stuffed animals for the organization.
But her soft spot is reserved for Hammy.
“The poor skyway security people have been pestered by her to death,” Teri said. “A guard at Target Center asked, ‘Can’t you just buy her a new stuffed animal?’ When we explained the situation, he said, ‘I will check every day.’ ”
Hannah was a “big-time” tuba player and alpine ski racer at Roseville High School. Her sister, Liz, also is a skier, and a supportive sister.
At about 14, Hannah got very sick. The diagnosis came at 16. While myasthenia gravis is not terminal, “Hannah is not responding well to treatments,” Teri said, which is why the bone marrow transplant is needed. Financial support is desperately needed, too, as the cost of the transplant will be at least half a million dollars, Teri said.
Currently, Hannah requires a ventilator-like machine to breathe when sleeping. She has trouble swallowing and concentrating. She uses a walker in the house, a wheelchair outside. She’s on steroids and oral chemo, in addition to the monthly IV treatments which knock her for a loop for about three days.
“That’s why she really wants her cow back,” said her mom.
If you find Hammy, please contact Teri Kiresuk at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to cotaforhannahk.com.
Follow Gail on Twitter: @grosenblum