Aviation for Women

JUL-AUG 2018

Aviation for Women is the flagship member publication of Women in Aviation International. Articles feature women who have made aviation history, professional development ideas, and current-topic articles.

Issue link: https://afwdigital.epubxp.com/i/995717

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48 AviationforWomen J U L Y / A U G U S T 2 0 1 8 Share Your Spare J O D I H A R S K A M P B y all outward appearances, Jenny Stan- sel was a happy, healthy, and exuberant flight attendant. Although she was suf- fering the effects of 15 years of kidney failure, caused by lupus, she hid it well. In March 2016 she collapsed at work and start- ed dialysis immediately. Her choice of dialy- sis and/or transplant went from an "if/when" to "now." Her kidneys were operating at 6 percent. Jenny was in and out of the emergency room with complications, experienced weight gain from ste- roids, hair loss, edema, pain, and a long list of other complications and indignities. If she was afraid, she hid it well and never complained. Jen- ny's new life was dialysis for 10.5 hours a day. The doctors said she was in end stage renal disease— the last leg before kidney disease leads to death. Jenny decided not to sign up for the national waitlist for a donor kidney as waiting for a cadav- er kidney could take over five years. The 38-year- old mother of three had a year to live. Instead, Jenny became her own advocate. She started a Facebook page for her future kidney, carried do- nor applications in her purse, and sent out a com- pany email asking for an O-positive kidney donor. I answered the call. Jenny and I met five years ago when I was suf- fering. On December 11, 2012, my house burned to the ground. Fortunately, I escaped with my 3-month-old baby and the dog, but not much else. The incident left my family displaced. My A la ska A irlines f light attenda nt s a nd pilot s quickly responded to help my husband, two kids, and me. Jenny was one of the first to deliver food. She didn't know me, but when she heard the call to action she answered. Ultimately, my house fire was what brought me to donate. W hen you sur vive such a devastating event, you ask yourself, "What am I doing to make the world a better place?" Children and siblings offer the best potential for being a living donor match. I filled out the ap- plication and started testing, but the odds were slim that I would be a match for Jenny. Testing is an important first step in the transplant process because donor and recipient need to share sever- al important physical characteristics. We needed the same blood type: O-positive people are uni- versal donors, but we can only receive O-positive organs. We needed matching antigens (proteins the body produces) indicating that a donor's kid- ney is more likely to be compatible. We also had to have no antibodies (which serve to protect against bacteria and viruses) against one anoth- er. I got a crash course on kidneys and dialysis by watching informational videos and attend- ing seminars. There was also lots of blood work, CT scans, 24 hours of urine collection, glucose- induced comas for blood sugar tests, and mul- tiple trips to Seattle. The list of requirements is extensive, expensive, and exhausting; plus each stage can disqualify you from the next step. Be- cause the transplant team doesn't want to give false hope, they are careful about the informa- tion they disclose. There was lots of silence from the clinic and lots of nonspecific answers. I approached this process with the same dis- cipline I have for flying. I researched, consulted aeromedical experts and nephrologists, and spoke with over 40 living donors, six of whom were pi- lots. Most had positive stories; some didn't. I did a lot of soul searching, but never wavered in my de- cision to donate. In December 2016, Jenny and I received the news on paper: I was a perfect match. We named my left kidney Jodiva: Jodi plus diva. With a name, the kidney had its own identity. The news spread that I was Jenny's potential donor, and then the questions began: "Why would you risk your life for a stranger?" "Why would you risk your career?" "What if your husband/kids needed a kid- ney?" My job is risk assessment. I determined that the reward was far greater than the risk, so the transplant happened at Swedish Medical Center on March 13, 2017. The surgery went as planned, and the kidney started working in Jenny immediately. One year later Jenny is taking flying lessons, and I summited Kilimanjaro in January 2018. Jodiva has given Jenny her life back, and I don't miss her. When two people who didn't even know each other share an event like this, it gives hope. It shows the importance of our common human- ity. It's a reminder that when someone steps up to help another human being it demonstrates our civic duty, to have civic virtues that make civilization possible. There is nothing more ful- filling as a human than to help another human being live. ✈ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jodi Harskamp, WAI 6299, is an Alaska Airlines captain and is now nicknamed "Capt. Kidney." When you survive such a devastating event, you ask yourself, "What am I doing to make the world a better place?" I N O U R O W N W O R D S Jenny and I recently celebrated our one-year kidneyversary in March, the designated National Kidney Month. Find out more at www.Kidney.org/content/ national-kidney-month. PHOTOS COURTESY OF JODI HARSK AMP

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