GOLIAD – Hannah Mozisek took many journeys in her two score years of life. By the pure force of her personality she overcame obstacles that would – and have – crippled others.

It is a convention of journalism that in a story, once a person’s full name is mentioned, subsequent references simply use the last name. But to the many who knew her, she simply was Hannah.

Had the doctors had their way 21 years ago, she would not have been born.

They told her parents, Kevin and Miranda, that tests indicated Hannah was handicapped. She had a disease whose name was almost bigger than she was: Amniotic Band Syndrome.

It’s rare; its effects severe. Not all of her limbs developed correctly. Worse, she was suffering from hydrocephalus – water on the brain.

“The doctors (at Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi) told us that if she was born alive, she would not live very long,” Miranda remembers.

Medical science has its knowledge, but it didn’t know Hannah. What she lacked physically she not only matched, but surpassed, in vivacious personality.

Hannah lived for 21 years. Crowned Goliad High School Homecoming Queen in 2017, she was graduated the next year.

Because of hydrocephalus, Hannah carried a shunt at the base of her skull to drain the excess fluid around her brain.

Knowing Hannah, she probably named it.

Like an unwelcome and cantankerous guest, constantly it created problems, requiring 10 additional surgeries to correct.

So, last June, when she began suffering seizures and complaining of a headache that wouldn’t go away, Hannah assumed it was just another battle with the shunt.

The cut-off age for patients at Driscoll Children’s Hospital is 20. But many of the doctors and nurses there had spent a significant part of their career assisting Hannah.

No one was surprised, then, particularly not Hannah, when Driscoll made an exception.

On June 15, Hannah was placed in an airlift helicopter, destination: Driscoll.

Grand mal seizures are serious, but for Hannah, such a journey was almost routine.

However, somewhere in the air Hannah suffered cardiac arrest. The paramedics did their best to revive her while in flight; the emergency teams at Driscoll did the same.

“They worked on her for 20 minutes,” Miranda says. 

They placed Hannah on life support, but all the monitors indicated it was too late. The machines kept her alive, but her brain had been starved for oxygen too long.

She had flown to the hospital on June 15; doctors declared her brain dead two days later.

“I don’t even have words,” Miranda says. 

She and Kevin do not access Facebook. “But I was just in awe at how many people wanted to check up on her, how many wanted to know how she was doing.

“The hospital knew what was going on, but they were trying to give us time.”

Among those who counseled with Hannah’s family was a representative of Southwest Transplant Alliance, who discussed the possibility of donating Hannah’s organs.

“They weren’t pushy,” Miranda remembers. “We hadn’t really given it much thought.” 

The family said yes. Hannah, they thought, would approve.

Once she was declared brain dead, Driscoll’s responsibility ended. The Southwest Transplant Alliance team took over.

“Donating organs is a lengthy process,” Miranda says. “We ended up being there for another three days with her. Hannah still was on all those machines so it was difficult to grasp that she really wasn’t there.”

Of all the patients who decide to become an organ donor, only one percent have organs healthy enough to use.

“It’s non-stop testing,” Miranda explains. “They tested her blood, her heart, her lungs, her liver, her kidneys. She had to be kept at a precise temperature.”

Once the Alliance team determined which organs were eligible, the process then began to find a match.

On July 20, Hannah took her last journey, from her room in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) to the operating room where her organs were removed.

“They call it ‘harvesting,’” Miranda says, but wishes the English language had a better word for it.

The procedure is more ritual than routine.

In the PICU was a table with a lighted candle and a frame with the words “During this trying time please be considerate of others.”

Outside, Driscoll personnel performed a flag-raising ceremony. The flag indicates a child has died and is an organ donor.

“It’s a white flag, and it says ‘Donate Life.’” Hannah’s younger sister and brother raised the flag.

Many of the staff members who knew Hannah offered their memories of Hannah at the ceremony.

The flag flies until the whole process is finished; the hospital donates it to the family.

“The most touching part,” Miranda remembers, “is when they came to take Hannah to the operating room. All the nurses and doctors lined up as they wheeled her through.”

The gesture was somber but not maudlin. The focus was positive, reminiscent of the words used to introduced Dr. Kildare, a network radio drama popular long before Hannah – or her parents for that matter – knew life. They described a hospital as a place where life begins, where life ends and where life goes on.

Not all of her organs were suitable; they were donated for research.

But somewhere out there, four people’s lives are going on, because of Hannah – and her gift of life. 

Even in death, she was the life of the party.

Bill Clough is the Goliad editor at the Advance-Guard Press and can be reached at 361-645-2330, or at goliad@mySouTex.com.

Advance-Guard Press - Goliad report