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Area graduate is thankful for much more than just her diploma

LAUREL — Witty phrases like, “The tassel was worth the hassle” took on a whole new level of meaning for at least one member of the Laurel-Concord-Coleridge Class of 2020.

This year’s graduating seniors had to endure a lot, but no one more than Rachel Hangman. Along with graduating high school, Hangman is celebrating another milestone: an extra year of life.

On June 22, 2019, Hangman received the gift of life when she received a kidney transplant. She was diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) as a young child.

Growing up, she and her family knew her disease would require a kidney transplant some day, but they wanted to wait as long as they could so she could have a fairly normal life.

That is precisely what happened.

Regular visits to her specialist and frequent checkups at the doctor’s office became a normal part of life for Hangman.

Still, in high school, she was involved in many activities for as long as her body would allow. She participated in volleyball, basketball, softball and track until she was unable to do so.

In May 2018, at an appointment with her nephrologist, it was discovered that her levels were so far off that she needed to be put on dialysis.

Her mother, Donna Hangman, explains, “Since Rachel’s treatments would be nine hours at a time, we went through a training in Omaha to learn how to do at-home dialysis.” The elder Hangman went on, “There were so many supplies that we needed to have delivered to our home to make sure we were able to continue treatment at home.”

Nearly a year later, in April 2019, she was put on the transplant list. Hangman was only on the list for two months before receiving her transplant in June. Many are not as fortunate and are on the waiting list for longer times, or never receive a transplant. At time of publication, Nebraska has 414 people registered and waiting for a transplant, over half of them are waiting for a kidney. To celebrate her successful transplant, Hangman and her family were given a trip to Disney World by the Make-A-Wish Foundation in September 2019, just two months post-transplant.

Hangman says she is grateful for a second chance at life. She has been living life to the fullest since recovering from her transplant.

“I am able to be able to do things I used to do,” she said, “like hang out with friends and not be concerned at what time I need to be hooked to a machine.”

Graduation being around the same as her transplant anniversary has just been icing on the cake.

“I am excited to continue to live life with a grateful heart. I am excited for the future,” she said.

Her future is bright. Hangman plans to attend Wayne State College and major in early childhood education. With the directed health measures that were in place that kept students from learning in the school environment, she was able to get some experience in teaching. Hangman helped her younger cousins who would receive packets during the final weeks of school.

“It helped show me that going into elementary education is the right path for me.”

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