‘‘We’re all here to take care of each other”
Flight attendant Jenny Stansel’s kidneys were failing. Jodi Harskamp is a pilot who only knew how sweet Jenny was because of her kindness when she had a tragedy of her own. Together, the two moms would make a miracle happen!
As the plane soared above the clouds, Jenny Stansel doubled over. Ever since she was a child, being a flight attendant was her dream. But now, she was so sick, the Anchorage mom of three had to take a passenger seat—then collapsed!
When the flight landed, Jenny found herself in the ER, shocked to learn her kidney function hovered at only 6%.
Jenny had known since she was 19 that she had systemic lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disease where the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s healthy tissues.
But you can’t live your life worrying, Jenny always told herself. So she had three children. She worked and traveled. And though, through the years, her kidney function had fluctuated, she had always been able to manage.
Yet now, doctors told her she needed a transplant. In the meantime, she’d have to stop working and would be on dialysis for more than 10 hours a day.
Jenny had never been one to ask for help. But now, thinking of her kids, she sat down and poured out her heart in an e-mail.
Is anyone with O positive blood willing to donate a kidney?
A perfect match
Staring at the glowing screen, Alaska Airlines pilot Jodi Harskamp read— and reread— the e-mail from a co-worker. How do I know that name? she wondered. And then it struck her: Jenny! Five years earlier, Jodi and her husband, Neal, had endured a tragic fire that devastated their home. Blessedly, their family had escaped safely. But they lost everything. One of the first people to reach out was Jenny, who handdelivered homemade lasagna and wine. For her to go out of her way like that . . . Jodi was touched. Learning Jenny was sick now, Jodi could hardly believe it. Whenever she ran into her during a layover, Jenny was always smiling. Somebody as sweet as she is doesn’t deserve this. Nobody does! Jodi sighed. And she realized: My blood type is O positive! Donating a kidney was certainly a grander gesture than making a lasagna. Yet Jodi suddenly believed this was something she was meant to do. So, clicking on the link to be considered a candidate, she sent Jenny a message. I’m filling out paperwork, girl. I’ve got your kidney! Jenny texted Jodi back an emoji with bulging eyes.
I hardly know her! Why would she do something this selfless for me? she marveled.
But the truth was, as Jenny grew weaker, time was running out.
Eventually, after several weeks of testing, Jodi’s smartphone pinged with a message.
Jenny was sitting at her kitchen table, hopelessness hanging over her like a black cloud, when Jodi called.
“I knew it. We’re a match!”
Jenny’s second chance
you!” Jenny beamed through tears of gratitude as they flew to Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center for the transplant.
The risks were great: If Jodi’s other kidney did not pick up the slack, she could be unable to work— or worse.
Still, she had zero hesitation as she slid into her hospital gown to be prepped for surgery.
Jodi was so healthy, surgeons were able to remove her kidney laparoscopically with just four small incisions. And the moment it was implanted inside Jenny, the toxins began leaving her body and the color returned to her cheeks!
When Jodi awoke, Jenny’s three kids—21-year-old Daniel, Amber, 16, and Austin, 13— were nestled around her hospital bed.
“Thanks for giving our mom your kidney!” they chimed, and tears sprang to Jodi’s eyes.
Within just days, Jodi went home; Jenny followed.
“You saved my life!” Jenny hugged Jodi. Yet Jodi sent Jenny a card: Thank you for changing my life. You gave me the opportunity to do something amazing!
Recently, when Jodi ran a 5K mountain race, Jenny was waiting at the finish line holding a sign saying, My kidney’s other half is on that mountain! And now that Jenny’s back at work, they even worked a flight together.
Introducing herself over the loudspeaker as the pilot, Jodi announced, “Jenny is one of your wonderful flight attendants, and she’s extra awesome—because she has one of my kidneys!”
The whole plane erupted in cheers. And today, the two women— closer and more connected than ever—believe that no matter where they fly, hope is closer than you think.
“There’s always something you can do to make the world a better place,” Jodi says.
“I feel fantastic— all because of Jodi!” adds Jenny, who’s now also engaged. “We’re all here to take care of each other. Be kind to everyone. You never know— someone could save your life!”
— Patti Zarling
To the world you may be just one person, but to one person, you may be the world.” BRANDI SNYDER