Hannah Warren was born in August 2010 in Seoul, South Korea. Her dad, Darryl is Canadian and taught English in Seoul. Her mother, Young Mi, is Korean. Hannah also has a sister, Dana, who is two years older than her.
When Hannah was born she was blue. Doctors immediately inserted a tube down her throat and into her lungs so she could breathe. After doing a CT scan, doctors realized she was born without a trachea (windpipe). The tube they inserted had actually gone down her esophagus and into her lungs, creating an airway.
Children born with tracheal agenesis (where the trachea fails to develop), like Hannah, often don’t survive. Doctors said she would not be able to live long in in this condition.
When Hannah was about a month old, Dr. Mark Holterman, a pediatric surgeon, met her for the first time during a business trip to Seoul. On a subsequent visit, Dr. Holterman met Darryl and Young Mi and offered to do what he could to find a solution for their baby who continued to get bigger and stronger. She had set backs along the way, but continued to defy the odds.
Hannah’s parents were anxious to find the right solution.
Through the Internet they learned about the new field of regenerative medicine. Further searching led them to the pioneering tracheal transplantation work of Dr. Paolo Macchiarini. They were excited to learn of his experience in building new tracheas out of stem cells and scaffolds and implanting them into adult patients. They hoped and prayed that this technology could be used to save their child’s life.
Dr. Holterman, who has research interests in stem cells and regenerative medicine, volunteered to contact Dr. Macchiarini. Figuring he had nothing to lose, Dr. Holterman fired off an email introduction and description of Hannah’s dilemma. To his surprise and delight, Dr. Macchiarini called him the next morning and offered to help.
It was mid-2011 when the administration at Children’s Hospital of Illinois and OSF Saint Francis Medical Center first became aware of Hannah’s case. With little hope of doing the surgery elsewhere for a number of reasons, Dr. Holterman approached the Sisters at OSF Saint Francis with a very special request – to help this child from Korea - along with Dr. Macchiarini - in Peoria.
As with all decisions made at the medical center, the Sisters prayed for guidance and ultimately gave the go-ahead to bring Hannah here in the hope of saving her life.
Dr. Macchiarini and Dr. Holterman made a visit to Hannah in Seoul in early March 2013 to do some final testing and make sure she was a candidate for transplant. While they found some additional vascular issues that would require attention during surgery, they determined the transplant could proceed.
After more than 2 years of planning, paperwork completion, travel arrangements, staff education - with continued improvements to the trachea implant protocol along the way - Hannah, accompanied by her parents and sister arrived at Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria on March 29, 2013 – Good Friday.
The Sisters know that Hannah’s odyssey was not happenstance but a Divine answer to prayer. We at OSF are humbled and honored to have been a part of God’s plan for Hannah and will also pave the way for regenerative medicine solutions to help many more of His children.