Orono High School student returns to the ice after overcoming brain tumor
Jordan Hansen is getting back into a rhythm out on the hockey rink. Each practice shot on goal is progress for the 18-year-old Orono High School senior.
“It’s been my safe space,” he said. “I try to enjoy it as much as I can.”
There was no guarantee he’d be able to skate again after a life-changing diagnosis when he was in fourth grade. He fell on the ice when he was 11 years old and suffered what his family thought was a concussion.
“Some things were just off,” his mother, Gina Hansen, said. “He was usually really good with his shooting, really on the money. We’d been to the doctor three times, just his regular pediatrician, and they said it’s not a concussion.”
They took him to Children’s Minnesota for additional examination. Jordan was asked to do a balance test by walking with one foot in front of the other but he was unable to. An MRI showed he had a brain tumor about the size of a lemon.
“A type of tumor called a medulloblastoma and it grows in the cerebellum, which is this back part of the brain, it’s the balance center of the brain,” said Dr. Anne Bendel, the director of pediatric neurooncology at Children’s Minnesota.
She explained the tumor was blocking the flow of his spinal fluid.
“His presenting symptoms were issues with balance because of the coordination center, issues with double vision because his brain stem is involved in moving eyes,” Bendel said.
Jordan was admitted to the hospital, and a drain was put in to release the fluid and pressure on his brain. A few days later he underwent surgery to remove the tumor.
His parents met him in the recovery room.
“We were in the room with him and he just seemed to be in such rough shape and so pretty scary right at that point,” said Stewart Hansen, his dad. “Doctors said he was doing OK, but he just was not looking too good.”
Gina Hansen added, “Those first few hours we were with him, he couldn’t speak. He tried but it was just gibberish.”
Jordan experienced right-side paralysis.
“He had some weakness on the right side, coordination issues on the right side and balance issues and then his vision got worse before it got better,” Bendel said.
Still, the surgery was a success with the entire tumor removed. Jordan underwent six weeks of radiation and four rounds of chemotherapy next, as he also worked with occupational and physical therapists to recover.
“What kept me motivated is my old self, because I know my old self would want to be back on the ice,” Jordan Hansen said.
A few months after his surgery, he put on his skates for the first time but was unable to stand on his own on the ice. Now, after years of setbacks, struggles and progress, he plays on a rec team and manages his high school team.
“It was really fun to get back out there,” he said. “Looking back on it now, I just think to myself, ‘How strong was I?’”
He added, “It got me to where I am today, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.”
He’s also giving back. Jordan Hansen has held multiple fundraisers, gathering more than $11,000 in donations for Children’s Minnesota to help ensure other children have the opportunity to receive quality care.
“All that Children’s has done for me has been something I can’t ever explain so giving back to Children’s is the least I can do,” Jordan Hansen said.
His journey has made his parents proud.
“Now he realizes what he can do, I think there’s a positive that can come out of all of this,” Gina Hansen said. “The fact that he’s here, he’s healthy, he’s thriving is amazing.”