Alaska Airlines pilot donates kidney to co-worker
How far would you go to help a friend? Two Alaska Airlines co-workers will be putting that question to the test when one donates a kidney to the other in March.
Jenny Stansel is a flight attendant for Alaska Airlines. The lifelong Alaskan suffers from chronic kidney disease. Stansel said she managed the disease for years, until about about nine months ago, when her doctor informed her her kidneys were failing and she was close to death.
“I ended up in the hospital and my doctor said, ‘You are going to have to go on dialysis,’ and I said ‘No I’m not, I’m getting a kidney transplant,’” said Stansel. “And he said, ‘That’s not the way these things work.’”
Stansel ended up on dialysis. Right now, she has to undergo it for 10 hours and 30 minutes everyday. But she also started a search for a kidney. The woman who answered the call was Alaska Airlines pilot Capt. Jodi Harskamp.
“Jodi was one of the first people to come to my rescue, to say, ‘Take me. I’m here. Take my kidney,” said Stansel.
The two women bonded years ago, with an unusual start to their friendship.
“We both rallied because both of us have had a major calamity in our lives,” said Harskamp.
Five years ago, Harskamp’s Anchorage home burned to the ground. Jenny Stansel was the first Alaska Airlines employee who showed up to offer help.
“I didn’t know her and she didn’t know me,” said Harskamp. “But she made me lasagna, and she showed up at my house, and brought presents for my kids.”
It was a small act of kindness that is inspiring a much bigger one now. Harskamp isn’t the only Alaska Airlines employee who came forward to help Stansel, but she was the first to be a positive match. Since then she’s gone through many medical tests and exams, and is preparing for what will be major surgery. But she doesn’t seem to mind.
“You see a lot of negativity and you see how people treat each other and you think, ‘I can’t change the world,’” said Harskamp. “But I can change one person’s world and make a difference.”
The transplant operation is scheduled for March 13 in Seattle. Both women will be off work for several weeks, if not months, while they recover.