Sunday, May 19

Port St Lucie community rallies around 9-year-old boy who needs lung transplant

A parent’s worst nightmare is learning your child is seriously sick. One Port St. Lucie family calls it a cruel joke after their 9-year-old son beat cancer, but he now needs a double lung transplant.

Marco Hannan, a student at Somerset Academy St. Lucie, is feeling the love and support from his school community as he faces his next battle.

Marco needs a new set of lungs, but it’s not the first time he’s fighting for his life.

“When he was 5, he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. He beat it like a champion, stayed positive the entire way. He beat chemo, surgery, bone marrow transplant, radiation, immunotherapy,” mother Graziella Hannan said. “He was so excited to finally return to school this year, but it wasn’t long because by Thanksgiving he started having trouble breathing. He couldn’t walk in school anymore.”

The diagnosis was pulmonary fibrosis, caused by the chemo treatment.

“So the cancer was killed, but it also killed his lungs basically, so now we have to undergo a lung transplant. We’re up here at [UF Health] Shands [Hospital] in Gainesville,” Graziella said. “We’ve been here for 48 days, and we are not leaving until he has new lungs.”

The child’s mother said she went right back into survivor mode.

“As a mom, you don’t really have a choice,” she said. “You don’t sit around and cry about it. You become your child’s biggest advocate.”

She doesn’t know how long their wait will be, but Graziella and Marco are in Gainesville until the donor lungs come through, while the rest of their family is back in Port St. Lucie.

“Lungs for pediatrics take quite a while. In our doctor’s experience, he said average 90 days, but it could be any day and it could be much longer. We have to wait here until a good match arrives because he’s not well enough to go home. He needs a lot of support. He’s on ECMO right now, which is an external machine that oxygenates his blood,” Graziella said. “Until a donor match arrives, we are here. Like I said, we’ve been here 48, 49 days and however long it takes until those lungs arrive, and then we have to stay here three months after the surgery for follow-up.”

The mother and son are taking on whatever comes their way as a team, staying positive.

“He’s handling it very well, he says, ‘Mom this is basically just an extension of cancer. We’ll get through this too. It’s just not over. We thought it was, but it’s not.'”

Despite this hardship, she remains positive through it all.

“It’s not as bad as you think it would be,” Graziella added. “Whatever doomsday scenario you think of because it will always get better.”

This mother on a mission hopes that by sharing their story it can also encourage others to keep a watchful eye on their health.

“I didn’t believe them when they told me he had pulmonary fibrosis, I really didn’t. It’s very rare in kids. So now that we know cancer, chemo, all of this plays a role. We are trying to let more people know so they can keep a better eye on their follow-up care,” she said. “If I would have waited any longer, this would have killed him.”

Marco’s school community raised thousands of dollars to support his care. They held a superhero dress-up day to honor the boy who loves Spiderman along with other fundraising activities.

Click here to visit the family’s GoFundMe page to support them.

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