With one look at today’s headlines, it’s easy to convince yourself that kindness is a thing of the past. Unfortunately, it’s rare to hear about those extreme acts of selflessness that actually do occur. One recent case involves a gravely ill flight attendant and a pilot with a heart of gold.
38 year-old Jenny Stansel has been in the fight of her life for close to a year. She’s undergone multiple surgeries and endured countless hours of nightly dialysis in her fight against kidney disease. She also lives in Anchorage and has had to travel as far as Seattle for treatment on many occasions.
Without a transplant in the near future, Stansel is essentially living on borrowed time. It’s unlikely that her kidneys will last more than a few months and a “new” one is her only shot at resuming a normal life.
Enter Capt. Jodi Harskamp, a 41 year-old pilot and co-worker of Stansel’s, who is also from Anchorage. Harskamp is one of several airline employees who stepped up to see if their kidneys were compatible with Stansel’s. Both women are O-positive, which makes her kidney a perfect match. She also happens to be the only match.
Deciding to give up a kidney is a difficult and sometimes risky decision. Harskamp would be out of work for 8 to 12 weeks and only time would tell if she’d be able to pass the strict health standards expected of commercial pilots. As if that weren’t enough, she also has two young children to think about, ages 4 and 6.
Upon consulting other donors, Harskamp discovered that even the pilots who had donated kidneys had made it back to work, eventually. Recovery would entail limiting the intake of certain foods and medications, as well as avoiding contact sports and anything that might damage her remaining kidney.
Ultimately, Harskamp decided to go through with the surgery, which is scheduled for March 13th. She chose to share her story so that others might be inspired to donate their own organs.
“If this inspires just one person to consider it, I would be so happy,” Harskamp said in a recent interview.
As for Stansel, she considers Harkamp to be her “hero.” While the two have worked together over the years on many occasions, their families have since become much closer.