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Hansons ready to hit road

by: JENNIFER CHANCELLOR World Scene Writer
10/7/2007


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After undergoing surgery Thursday in Dallas to remove multiple blood clots from his arm, neck area and lungs, Isaac Hanson and his brothers Zac and Taylor were back home in Tulsa on Saturday, eager to resume their national tour, "The Walk," on Monday.

"I'm lucky to be here," Isaac Hanson said as he patted the elastic bandage that covered his right forearm at a press conference on the banks of the Arkansas River where the brothers endorsed the 0.4 percent sales tax proposal for river improvements on Tuesday's ballot.

"Downtown Tulsa is a gem and river development is what we need to magnify that downtown beauty," he said.

The brothers were performing Tuesday night at the House of Blues in Dallas when Isaac Hanson, a guitarist, noticed sudden swelling and stiffness in his arm about halfway through the show, he said.

"I just left for a couple of minutes and walked backstage and said, 'Something's going on,' " he said.

Zac Hanson noticed, too. "His arm was black and blue. It was pretty obvious that it was serious," he said during an interview Saturday.

Isaac Hanson was taken to Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas early Wednesday, and the band postponed its Tulsa homecoming show, scheduled for that night, to Nov. 11.

"The only other time we've canceled a show was because of a hurricane," Taylor Hanson said. "So, yeah, our fans understood this was serious."

Isaac Hanson, 26, said this wasn't the first time he has developed blood clots that have traveled to his lungs -- a condition called pulmonary embolism. His first diagnosis was at age 23.

"And I was really young for that," he said. "Usually it happens to people into their 30s."

Doctors who examined him last week also found that he has thoracic outlet syndrome, or "Paget-Schroeder syndrome," a rare condition caused by compression of blood vessels and nerves in the area of the collarbone. It causes pain, numbness and loss of grip strength, he said.

The condition also made him more susceptible to potentially deadly blood clots, he said.

About 15 percent of people who develop clots will also develop pulmonary embolism, he said.

When Hanson completes its current leg of its national tour in December, Isaac Hanson will make time to have surgery to permanently correct the problem, he said.

In the meantime, it means "no heavy lifting" and changing the way he plays guitar, he said.

"My guitar techs on the road are always onto me because I'm notoriously hard on my guitars," he said. "I will break two or three strings at a time."

He said thoracic outlet syndrome often appears in pitchers, tennis players and swimmers because of overdevelopment of muscles around the affected area.

Isaac Hanson said the surgery to remove his clots involved an AngioJet -- a tube inserted into the affected area to break up clots and suction them out.

The procedure is relatively new, he said.

"This time, the surgery and hospital stay was two days," he said. "Last time it took three weeks."

He is also taking blood thinners to help prevent further clotting, he said.

"If this happened 10 years ago, I likely could have died," he said. "And if I didn't, I'd likely never be able to play guitar again. . . . But now, I'm really excited to be back so soon -- and I'm ready to play."

His quick recovery was helped by the support of his fans, the brothers said.

"People have called us from halfway around the world, and we've received thousands of supportive messages," Taylor Hanson said.

"It's been a huge, heart-wrenching thing to know that our brother was suffering from something so serious," he said. "The support, the action that our fans have taken is overwhelming."

Isaac Hanson agreed. "It's a hard thing to know -- that what you do for a living can cause a life-threatening illness," he said.

The American Academy of Family Physicians' Web site says an estimated 300,000 Americans a year suffer pulmonary embolism.

Of those who have it, 2 percent die within the first day, and 10 percent will develop the condition again. Of that 10 percent, nearly half -- 45 percent -- die of it.

"Parents, athletes, if you ever notice any symptoms, get to a hospital immediately," Isaac Hanson said.

Taylor Hanson said the postponed tour dates haven't stopped fans from following in the brothers' footsteps when it comes to social activism.

"Instead of gifts, fans have donated to TOMS Shoes; they have continued the one-mile walks in our name," he said.

At each stop on the tour, the Hansons are walking one mile with fans to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and poverty in Africa. TOMS Shoes, which makes footwear, will donate a pair of shoes to poor African children for every pair it sells, Taylor Hanson said.

So far, fans have walked more than 17 miles.

The Hansons will go to Africa in November to deliver the 50,000 shoes they plan to have collected by that time, he said.