In many ways, Hunter Lantz is just like any other 14-year-old boy who loves sports, playing with his dogs and finding any excuse to use his driver’s permit. But life for this high school freshman is far from ordinary.
From a young age, an unidentified medical condition baffled Hunter’s doctors. Treating him as a “medical mystery,” specialists across the state spent nearly a decade trying to diagnose the rare genetic disorder—later identified as Shwachman Diamond Syndrome—that made him extra susceptible to infections, easy bruising and abnormal bleeding. There is no cure for SDS, but after years of invasive testing, intensive treatment, and plenty of ups-and-downs, hope arrived for Hunter in the form of a bone marrow transplant.
In March of 2018, Hunter and his family began the journey that would lead them from their home in Adel, IA, to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, where Hunter would eventually receive the life changing transplant.
Everywhere they turned, it seemed like the Lantz family encountered new obstacles. Expecting to stay in Iowa City for at least 100 days, they faced mounting medical bills and steep expenses for things like lodging, gas, food and even parking—until a nurses’ referral to the Ronald McDonald House changed everything.
When they arrived at the House, the Lantzes quickly found a support system. Staff and volunteers showed them where they could settle in and relax, wash their clothes, find household supplies and get a warm, home cooked meal every night. For Erin Lantz, Hunter’s mother, it was the smallest details that made the biggest difference:
“The House was a life-saver. Without the support we got there, none of this would have been financially possible. Even the little things helped a lot—whether it was free cleaning supplies or batteries for Hunter’s medical equipment, they went above and beyond to get us what we needed.”
Just 53 days after his transplant, Hunter and his family received good news: he was healthy enough to finish recovering at home. Because Hunter is still vulnerable to infections, he won’t be able to return to school yet, but he’s already been able to enjoy a welcome-back celebration and is happy to be reunited with his pets.
“[My husband] and I are planning to dedicate one day a week to volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House near us once we return to some normalcy,” said Erin in a Facebook post. “We did not know what to expect; we received ★★★★★ accommodations. We appreciate everything so much!”