Just breathing is a chore for Hakeneis
LAUREL — Breathing is something everyone does and usually without effort.
It’s something most people take for granted.
Not Cheri Hakeneis, though. She is thankful for every breath that God allows her to take.
Cheri, 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 has an 18% chance to be alive in four years.
Cheri is fighting for her life. The only hope to live is to receive a double lung transplant.
Currently, Cheri is working with Nebraska Medicine/UNMC Lung Transplant Program. To become a candidate for a transplant she must go through a comprehensive process. Cheri calls it her “homework.” “I need to address everything going on in my body.” “I need to have my body strong.”
Along with the comprehensive process during the pre-transplant stage, transplant candidates are expected to raise money.
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. The required time is three months of living in Omaha with an around the clock caregiver. With health insurance there are still large amounts of expenses for families to cover to make the transplant a success.
Cheri 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.
Cheri said, “With God is how I deal with this (diagnosis).” She holds tight to her favorite scriptures Psalm 62:7 In God is my salvation and my strength, and my refuge in God and Proverbs 3:6 In all your ways acknowledge Him; and He shall direct your paths.
God is directing her path and giving her strength according to Cheri by placing me with the best people.
Marcia Lipp is one of those people. She is a Godsend in the life of Cheri. “She has washed my soul,” said Cheri. She talks about feeling no symptoms of disease when she attends bible study at Marcia’s house, even though she could barely get out of bed.
Cheri said when battling this progressive terminal disease, there is no turning back. This is where the best friends are found.
Mike her husband agrees that without Marcia and her family they could not get through this life changing event.
Cheri’s lungs are currently functioning at 30% of their capacity. She is on oxygen and had recently dipped down to only 25% when she was ill.
Cheri will be eligible to be placed on the waiting list when her lung capacity reaches close to only 20%.
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, Cheri 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 Cheri.
The community of Laurel and surrounding areas are being asked to join Cheri in fighting for her life.
An old saying is “Many hands make light work.”
An organizational fundraising meeting is being held on Thursday, March 1st in the Economic Development Office at the City Office at 5:30 p.m. Cheri and her family pray people will attend and assist her in this fight.
A dinner and silent auction are scheduled for April 15 at the Laurel City Auditorium.
To make a tax-deductible donation make it payable to Concord Evangelical Free Church with Cheri Hakeneis (Duff) in the memo line and mail to Concord Evangelical Free Church, 617 Broadway St, Concord, NE 68728.
Any questions regarding the fund-raising meeting or donations can be directed to Bill Dickey (402) 369-2624.