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Horlick’s former female football player recovering after transplant

August 08, 2014 5:47 pm  •  PETE WICKLUND Comments

Family Encourages People to Become Donors

As 18-year-old Abbi Strack recovers from a kidney transplant, she and her family are asking people to consider registering as potential organ donors.

Her father, John, said that commitment could be as simple as filling out the organ donor registry for your driver’s license, or by getting more information from the National Kidney Foundation,, or contacting Shelley Chapman, the kidney transplant coordinator at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, at

WAUWATOSA — Abbi Strack has faced hurdles before in her young life, including breaking the gender barrier as a four-year player with Horlick High School’s football program.

On Friday, she was enduring pain — but doing well — in the aftermath of a kidney transplant at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, her father John, a principal at Horlick, said.

Events leading up to the surgery unfolded quickly, John Strack said, with Abbi, 18, being put on the recipient list for a transplant on June 17 and the family being notified Thursday night to report to the hospital to prepare for the operation early Friday.

John Strack said his daughter was born with one of her kidneys being about one-third of the size of the other, leaving the dominant kidney handling the bulk of the work for Abbi’s system. In the third grade, Abbi underwent surgery to move the ducts that move urine between the kidneys and bladder. In the seventh grade, she was again hospitalized due to heart problems brought on by high blood pressure related to her condition.

Between that health crisis and Friday’s surgery, there was nothing major, John Strack said. Abbi kept up an active teenage life. In addition to her football participation, she played softball for most of her high school career, was an honor student and participated in choir. Outside of school, she was active in Job’s Daughters, the youth wing of the Freemasons for girls, and was named a chapter sweetheart of the Racine chapter of DeMolay, the boys organization for the Freemasons.

But shortly after winter holiday season, Abbi’s health began to decline, John Strack said. She tried to keep her schedule going, even continuing with softball, but had to quit the team after three games because her stamina was gone. In June, Abbi was outfitted with the apparatus needed for dialysis and was just days away from undergoing her first dialysis treatment when the call for the transplant came, John Strack said.

Along with her dad, with Abbi at the hospital on Friday was her mom, Jan, a nurse; and brothers John Jr., 23, and Branden, 19, who are both in the Army. A third brother, Taylor, 22, who is also in the Army, was expected to arrive before today at the hospital.

John Strack Sr. gave thanks and praise to the Army and especially the Red Cross in arranging emergency leaves for his sons.

Also at Abbi’s side was her boyfriend, Jason Hilderbrand, 24, of Burlington. John Strack said Abbi and Hilderbrand met through mutual friends.

The next days will be crucial for Abbi, John Strack said, as medical staff watch for signs of rejection of the new kidney. She will be in the intensive care unit for at least four days and then will continue on in a regular hospital room for a few days before a month of in-home rest. John Strack said that visits to Abbi are restricted and well-wishers are asked not to send flowers or items containing latex to the hospital.

John Strack said that social workers at the hospital are working with officials at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where Abbi plans to start nursing studies this fall, to try to keep Abbi’s studies on schedule. For updates on Abbi’s condition, visit

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