An Alaska Airlines pilot and flight attendant are about to become much more than co-workers or even friends. One of them is making a sacrifice, so the other can live a healthy, full life.
“My very last flight I was so ill that I had to take a passenger's seat, and I went into the hospital that day,” said Jenny Stansel, who has been on medical leave from her job as an Alaska Airlines flight attendant for about a year.
A doctor delivered the news that her kidneys were failing as a result of Lupus, which she has had for several years. She would need to spend 10.5 hours every day on dialysis.
Stansel asked friends and co-workers if they would consider taking a test to see if they might be a good donor. Captain Jody Harskamp, who also flies for Alaska Airlines, was among the first to sign up.
“She sent out the word, and when I filled out the paperwork I think the title of the fax I sent in was ‘Girl, I got your kidney,’ and then I was joking with her that I was going to deliver the kidney on the beverage cart on an ice bucket,” Harskamp said.
Harskamp is a match, and next Monday surgeons at Swedish Organ Transplant Center in Seattle will remove one of Harskamp's kidneys and give it to Stansel.
“It means the world to me. It means everything to me. It's life,” said Stansel.
It's an unexpected gift. The two, who both live in Alaska, have only flown together a handful of times. But Harskamp knows how it feels when others are generous. Four years ago she lost her house in a fire, right before the holidays. Co-workers donated clothing, gifts, and dinners.
“Jenny was one of the first people to show up with a dinner,” Harskamp recalled.
Harskamp hopes to return to the flight deck once she recovers. She says she's spoken to many other donors, including several pilots, who were able to return to their careers. For someone who's always assessing risk, she says this one is well worth it.
“If it means Jenny is going to get another 20, 30, 40, 50 years out of my kidney, and I'm going to live just as long as I was going to live before, why not?” Harskamp said.
“I’m extremely grateful," Stansel said. "There are a lot of people that don’t have this opportunity."