Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Liverace will benefit Walworth’s Hubertz

by Rob Ireland

November 10, 2011

WHITEWATER — Like any medical professional who works with sick children, Hannah Hubertz takes precautions to protect herself from catching colds and other illnesses.

At work she frequently washes her hands, wears a surgical mask and uses antibacterial soap to protect herself from the germs that are released from a child's cough.

Although all certified medical assistants carefully avoid spreading disease, Hannah has a little more a stake. When she catches a cold it escalates quickly and often requires lengthy stays in hospitals.

Hannah, who is 24, suffers from Autoimmune hepatitis and, as a result of this illness, Stage 4 Cirrhosis. With these diseases medical expenses can become overwhelming, even with insurance.

Hannah is from the village of Walworth. Her dad is Pat, who serves on the village and school boards. Her mom is Peg who serves on the Walworth School Board.

To help offset some of theses costs, Hannah's family is hosting "Liverace" at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 13 at the Young Auditorium at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. The event is $10 and all of the proceeds will go directly to Hannah to help pay medical bills.

During the event, Hannah's cousins, Rebecca and Stephanie Shelton, both accomplished pianists, will perform a selection of Liberace pieces.

Despite her illness, Hannah has an upbeat attitude and speaks openly about her diseases. She is required to take medication daily, and as she gets older will likely be required to take more medication.

There are numerous ways to contract Autoimmune hepatitis, but Hannah said the doctors believe she was born with the disease, which went undiagnosed for 21 years.

It wasn't until she went to the hospital to have her gall bladder removed that the doctors found the damage to her liver.

"The doctor performing the gall bladder surgery stormed through the doors to give us the news," Pat said. "He assumed that Hannah had developed Cirrhosis due to heavy drinking. He was angry with me and my wife."

Instead the discovery answered medical questions that had existed for years. As a child, Hannah was sick more frequently and suffered more than her peers.

"Her childhood friends would recover from their colds within a few days, but it took weeks, sometimes months for Hannah to recover from a cold or another illness," according to a press release provided by the family. This has continued for Hannah into adulthood.

While attending one of her brother's basketball games, Hannah started to feel ill. Within two hours, she was in the hospital and said she was so sick, she doesn't remember a lot of what happened that night.

"The second it starts it doesn't stop," she said.

In the past two years, Hannah has been hospitalized five different times. She bruises easier than she did in the past, and it takes longer for her body to process toxins.

Hannah was diagnosed with her disease three years ago. She isn't on a restricted diet, but is cautious on what she eats.

"It is a good sign when you are hungry, that means the liver is working as it should," she said.

Obviously, Hannah can't consume alcohol. "I turned 21 in September and was diagnosed with it in November," she said.

As most people her age go to bars and participate in an active night life, Hannah said she will occasionally join friends during a night out, but will enjoy dancing not indulging in drinking.

However, she still can participate in physical activities and she enjoys downhill skiing and attending Brewer games.

After her diagnosis, Hannah assumed she could no longer enter the medical profession. However, she talked to one of her professors who reassured her she could stay in the field.

While she was hospitalized, she also spoke to medical professionals who encouraged her to continue her studies in the field.

It turns out, her experiences help put patients at ease.

"I can help prepare the patients with a procedure because I have gone through it myself," she said.

Hannah said in the long-term a liver transplant will be necessary.

After the transplant, Hannah said her ability to participate in athletic activities may be limited, but she relies on her friends to help her cope with that.

"I have good days and I have bad days," she said. "I can call on my friends to help me through with that."

The transplant also will costs a fortune, and, if she didn't have insurance, the medications after the transplant can costs about $12,000 a month.

Hannah also raised money for the American Liver Foundation's Liver Life Walk, which is a fundraiser and 5K walk.