2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Go Team Kidney Bean! Side Streets readers score again! Yay Team Hunger!

Published: November 20, 2013, 9:26 am, by Bill Vogrin
Candy Bench donated a kidney to friend Joe Hanson last week to free him from 16 hours a day of dialysis.

Candy Bench donated a kidney to friend Joe Hanson last week to free him from 16 hours a day of dialysis. Courtesy photo.

Team Kidney Bean won a thrilling victory of a lifetime. Team Side Streets came through again in the clutch. And seventh-grade students from Divine Redeemer made varsity on Team Hunger.

Time to update a few previous Side Streets topics.

First is Team Kidney Bean, the name given the folks surrounding Joe Hanson, who waited 30 months for a donor kidney to get him off the awful daily routine of spending 16 hours hooked to a dialysis machine. The machine kept him alive by cleaning the toxins from his blood after his kidneys failed in May 2011.

Joe’s kidney disease was discovered in 1986 during a routine physical. But it was considered fairly benign until the failure 25 years later from an unknown cause, though likely due to an infection.

I wrote about Hanson and his quest for a new kidney in April. Besides putting his name on traditional lists for a donor organ with 96,000 others in need, Hanson also launched a social media campaign to both raise awareness of the need for donor organs and find a kidney for himself.

Since then, a close family friend, Candy Bench, stepped forward to donate one of her kidneys. She wasn’t a perfect match, but doctors believe anti-rejection drugs will make the donation work.

Joe Hanson was ecstatic after receiving a new kidney from friend Candy Bench. Hanson suffered kidney failure in May 2011 leaving him unable to work and chained to a dialysis machine 16 hours a day. Courtesy photo.

Joe Hanson was ecstatic after receiving a new kidney from friend Candy Bench. Hanson suffered kidney failure in May 2011 leaving him unable to work and chained to a dialysis machine 16 hours a day. Courtesy photo.

Surgery was last week and on Tuesday, Joe was rejoicing after doctors removed a couple more tubes in preparation for possibly sending him home later this week. Joe, an aerospace engineer, has a goal of returning to work at Northrop-Grumman in two to three months.

Joe Hanson hopes to return to work in two to three months and resume skiing, hiking, riding motorcycles and other hobbies he enjoyed before his kidney failure. Courtesy photo.

Joe Hanson hopes to return to work in two to three months and resume skiing, hiking, riding motorcycles and other hobbies he enjoyed before his kidney failure. Courtesy photo.

“I’m doing very well,” Joe said happily from his room at University Hospital in Denver.

Candy was able to go home Sunday and is recovering well from her surgery, Joe said.

I asked Joe, given next week’s holiday, how he could ever thank Candy.

“I can’t thank her,” Joe said, breaking into tears. “All I can do is love her to death. That’s all I can do.”

Jonah Pfennigs, 14, rests in his hospital bed at Childrens' Hospital Colorado in Denver shortly after doctors discovered his leukemia had relapsed 11 years after he had a bone marrow transplant and was considered healthy. Courtesy photo.

Jonah Pfennigs, 14, rests in his hospital bed at Childrens’ Hospital Colorado in Denver shortly after doctors discovered his leukemia had relapsed 11 years after he had a bone marrow transplant and was considered healthy. Courtesy photo.

As for Team Side Streets, readers again came through, this time in support of Jonah Pfennigs, the 14-year-old Doherty High School freshman who suffered from acute myeloid leukemia as a child, underwent a bone marrow transplant and was thought to be cancer free until October when he was suddenly stricken again.

You may recall Jonah’s father, David Pfennigs, suffers from Parkinson’s disease and is unable to work. I told how Doherty basketball players, friends and even a group of blood bank nurses and medical technologists had rallied around the family to remove old carpet from the Pfennigs home, sanitize the home and install new donated flooring so that Jonah might be able to come home from the hospital between 28-day cycles of chemotherapy.

Kim Pfennigs told me last week she was surprised by the outpouring of support from readers who offered time, encouragement and even sent the family money to help with their many expenses. Kim became choked up just talking about the kindness of strangers.

“What a great a community we live in,” she said.

Jonah has had a rough go of it lately. He suffered an infection that left him severely ill. And he has struggled as doctors work to find dosages that kill the cancer without risking his life. Kim said he’s also lost all his hair, though he joked about it as it came out, as is his nature.

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Fran Clay’s seventh grade students at Divine Redeemer Catholic School toured the Marian House Soup Kitchen on Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, and at at Seeds Community Cafe’ where patrons pay what they can afford. Courtesy photo.

Finally, an update on the Hunger Team of Divine Redeemer Catholic School . . . a group of students who were moved by my efforts to eat for a week on a food stamp budget and decided to learn more about hunger in Colorado Springs.

Students at Divine Redeemer Catholic School collected enough food to stretch more than a mile as part of Hunger Action Month activities. The students were inspired by Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin and his efforts to eat for a week on $4.50 a day, the amount a typical food stamp recipient receives. Christian Murdock / The Gazette

Students at Divine Redeemer Catholic School collected enough food to stretch more than a mile as part of Hunger Action Month activities. The students were inspired by Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin and his efforts to eat for a week on $4.50 a day, the amount a typical food stamp recipient receives. Christian Murdock / The Gazette

In October, the school’s Junior Booster Club set a goal of collecting a “Miracle Mile” of food and enlisted the help of the school’s 198 students to fill the parish food pantry. They hit their goal and more.

Last week, teacher Fran Clay took her seventh-grade class to tour the Marian House Soup Kitchen, hosted by Catholic Charities. They wanted to learn more about all the services provided there to the community’s homeless and hungry and to see where their own fundraising efforts go.

Then they had lunch at Seeds Community Café, where customers pay what they can afford.

“How did the field trip go? Outstanding,” Fran told me in an email. “The students were surprised to find out how many services are provided by the Marian House to help people become self-sufficient.

Empty Stocking Fund“At Seeds Community Café, they were shocked that a place that offered a ‘pay what you can’ concept offered such a delicious variety of foods. The trip was great extension of their study on service and Catholic Social Teachings.”

Fran said the students came back more motivated than ever to help.

They are going to sponsor a Holiday House at school to raise money for the El Pomar and Gazette’s Empty Stocking Fund, which is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary this year of raising money to help the region’s poor. Since its inception, the Empty Stocking Fund has generated more than $13.7 million including more than $1 million in 2012.

The 2013-14 campaign will be held Thanksgiving Day through Jan. 17, 2014.

All I can say is “go team!”

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