Timpview’s Hansen recovers from rare illness to thrive on basketball floor
Timpview junior Nate Hansen prepares to shoot during the 82-26 Thunderbird win over Uintah in the Utah Valley High School Tipoff Classic at the UCCU Center in Orem on Nov. 22, 2017.
Timpview guard Nate Hansen (4) has his shot blocked by Corner Canyon forward Hayden Welling (13) and guard Blake Emery (behind) on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, at Timpview High School in Provo. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald
Timpview junior Nate Hansen drives the ball during the 43-42 Timpview win over Lehi in the Utah Valley High School Tipoff Classic at the UCCU Center in Orem on Nov. 21, 2017.
Timpview's Nate Hansen (4) is fouled during a game between Timpview and Highland on the first day of the Utah 4A basketball state championship tournament Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017 at Utah Valley University.
Timpview's Nate Hansen (4) and Highland's Liki Makaui (2) collide for the ball during a game between Timpview and Highland on the first day of the Utah 4A basketball state championship tournament Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017 at Utah Valley University.
Almost a year ago, Nate Hansen found out he was not invincible.
At times, teenagers wear their exuberance and energy like a superhero costume. Hansen was a varsity starter on the Timpview boys basketball team as a sophomore, an athletic 6-foot-3 guard with the ability to create and shoot from anywhere on the floor. Hard work and natural ability allowed Hansen to build himself a bright future.
Nothing could stop him.
Then, one day last March, Hansen realized something was not right with his body.
The eventual diagnosis — a rare blood disorder known as rhabdomyolysis — knocked Hansen and his family for a loop. He spent a week in the hospital and his recovery spanned the summer and the fall of 2017.
The good news is that he is feeling his old self again. Timpview is 15-6 overall and tied for first place in 5A Region 7. Hansen is averaging 15 points a game, which includes a career-high 30 points in a win against Cottonwood on Jan. 26. His development became even more important when point guard Adam Santiago suffered a serious knee injury before the season began.
“Nate can really ball,” Timpview coach Kevin Santiago said. “He can shoot it lights out. He’s a great player. We’re kind of finding our rhythm now. We’re not still looking over at the bench for our point guard. Nate’s feeling really comfortable in our offense right now and man, can he shoot the ball.”
Hansen has a scholarship offer from UC Irvine and appears to be back on track both physically and emotionally.
But last spring, Hansen was fearful he might never recover from his illness.
After completing a strenuous weightlifting workout with a friend in Pleasant Grove in March, Hansen was completely exhausted.
“I thought it was pretty crazy,” Hansen said. “I usually don’t feel that way after a workout. I consider myself a pretty decent athlete. So I go home and in the next couple of days, I realized that I couldn’t lift my arms to comb my hair or brush my teeth or to eat.”
The feeling persisted. Four days later, Hansen still had trouble lifting his arms and had to have his mother button up his shirt so he could go to church.
“It’s Sunday night and I’m feeling terrible,” Hansen said. “I said, ‘Dad, I can’t lift my arms. It feels like they weigh a million pounds.’ I was getting pretty frustrated.”
Hansen decided to go to bed and used the bathroom. His urine was brown. He told his mother what had happened and about five minutes later, Hansen started throwing up.
“I threw up like 10 times,” he said. “So they took me to Timpanogos Regional Hospital and the doctors put me on IVs to get some fluids in me.”
The hospital administered a CK blood test. Creatine kinase is an enzyme found in the heart, brain, skeletal muscles and other tissues. Doctors discovered a large amount of CK in Hansen’s blood, prompting a diagnosis of rhabdomyolysis.
According to WebMD, rhabdomyolysis is a serious syndrome resulting from a direct or indirect muscle injury. The death of muscle fibers releases their contents into the bloodstream. This can lead to serious complications such as renal (kidney) failure. Athletes who participate in difficult workouts can be at risk. Last month, two University of Nebraska football players were hospitalized for several days after showing symptoms of rhabdomyolysis after a strenuous workout. Only about 26,000 cases of rhabdomyolysis or “rhabdo” are reported in the United States each year.
Hansen’s test results were troubling. A normal CK level is in the 100s. Hansen’s levels were near 2,000. After an overnight stay in the hospital, his levels reached 45,000. The testing equipment at the hospital maxed out.
Hansen was sent to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. Four days later, his CK levels were at 100,000.
“Liver failure starts at 80,000,” Hansen said. “I was off the charts. Somehow, I wasn’t dead.”
The IV and fluids treatment finally brought his CK levels down and after a week of hospital stays, Hansen came home. Doctors told him he wasn’t at any more risk of getting rhabdomyolysis again than anyone else. But he still couldn’t lift his arms above his head. He couldn’t run a hundred yards without feeling like he was going to pass out. His endurance was gone.
“I was going from being an elite athlete to where I couldn’t do anything, and that sucked,” Hansen said. “Every morning I would wake up thinking, ‘Am I ever going to be normal again?’ “
Three weeks after leaving the hospital Hansen insisted that he be allowed to travel to a tournament with his AAU team, which is coached by former BYU standout Marty Haws. Hansen’s mother is Jeni Ross Hansen, an all-state basketball player at Timpview in the early 1990s. She watched as her son struggled through the first game of the tournament.
“It’s an open period so a lot of college coaches are watching,” she said. “Marty helped to manage Nate’s minutes. We watched some video of the tournament the other day and Nate said, ‘I can’t believe I actually played three weeks after getting out of the hospital. My body was so depleted.’ “
Haws was concerned about Hansen’s well-being and wouldn’t let him play the last two games of the tournament.
“Nate was devastated,” his mother said. “He thought his world was shattered, but he moved on.”
Hansen’s recovery was slow but steady. He didn’t lift weights for eight months and when he did he could only use 2-pound barbells to start. He trained harder. Some days he woke up feeling great and some days he could barely get out of bed.
“I would feel like I had been hit by a train,” Hansen said.
Paul Peterson, Hansen’s trainer, made him put a dollar in a jar every time he said he couldn’t do something during his recovery training.
The whole experience has been life-altering for Hansen.
“It totally changed my perspective on life and on basketball,” Hansen said. “I went from just being a basketball player to realizing you have to take advantage of every opportunity. You just never know when something can be taken away from you.
“This summer I actually fell in love with basketball. I loved basketball before but after this thing, I know I just can’t take anything for granted. A lot of positive things have come out of this. Looking back, I would say it was the biggest life-changing moment in my life so far. It’s helped me understand a bigger purpose in my life.”