Singer dies after bone marrow transplant

Melissa Weigel

Junior engineering student Josh Hanlon, 20, died on July 18 of complications from a bone marrow transplant for leukemia at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia.

Hanlon, who was from Hollidaysburg, Pa., first found out about his condition during the fall break of 2003. At that point, his disease had not fully progressed, but he needed a bone marrow transplant. He was able to return to school at the end of the break; however, before first semester finals of 2003, he had to go into the hospital.

“It was so sudden. We knew he would have to go into the hospital sooner or later, but we didn’t think it would have to be so soon,” junior Phil Shodder, one of Hanlon’s close friends, said.

He did not return to school second semester, during which time he was supposed to have a bone marrow transplant. However, date for the transplant kept getting pushed back because the doctors could not find a good enough match. When he finally did get the transplant in early summer, he was able to successfully regenerate red blood cells.

Hanlon then developed graft vs. host disease, in which the body reacts against the new blood cells being created by the transplanted bone marrow. This is normal, and doctors treated Hanlon with steroids. However, the disease soon spread to his lungs. Doctors gave Hanlon oxygen to help him breathe. Eventually, he was placed on a ventilator and was never able to breathe without it.

He was the oldest of five children, and his brother Bill Hanlon is a freshman at Villanova. “He was the most amazing brother anyone could ever ask for,” Bill Hanlon said. “I looked up to him so much.” Hanlon’s mother died of cancer three years ago.

Hanlon was involved with many groups at the University, including the Singers, Vocal Minority, RAMP, SEARCH and the Alumni Hall service learning community.

According to another of Hanlon’s close friends, Jason O’Brien, Hanlon very much enjoyed being involved with Vocal Minority. “He was about to start chemo and was in so much pain, but when he got to sing onstage with Vocal Minority, he just looked so happy,” O’Brien said.

“I want people to remember the most Josh’s great character and generosity,” O’Brien said. “His concern [when he was sick] was always for his siblings, dad and friends.”

There will be a memorial Mass for Hanlon in the Villanova church at 2 p.m. on Sept. 26.