Alaska Airlines flight attendant finds an unlikely kidney donor

Jenny Stansel has battled chronic kidney disease for the last 15 years.

ByABC News
March 10, 2017, 3:09 PM

— -- Jenny Stansel, an Alaska Airlines flight attendant, has battled chronic kidney disease for the last 15 years, but things took a turn for the worse last March when she became ill on a flight.

"I had to take a passenger's seat on my last flight," Stansel, 38, said in an interview with ABC News on Friday. "I knew something was very wrong, but I thought that maybe I had been working too much and overdoing it like I always do."

She soon learned that her disease had progressed and her kidneys were functioning at just 6 percent of their capacity.

Her doctors ordered her to immediately began dialysis, an intensive treatment for end-stage kidney failure. Her only way off dialysis was to find a kidney donor.

Stansel created a Facebook page "Keep Jennie Kickin’ with JoDiva the Kidney" and sent out a company-wide email to see if anyone would be interested in helping her.

She said at least three of her co-workers agreed to take a compatibility test, but only one of them was a match: Captain Jodi Harskamp.

Stansel and Harskamp, both based in Anchorage, Alaska, had become close friends after Harskamp’s home caught on fire a few years ago.

"I didn’t know her that well back then, but I heard about the fire, so I took her some dinner and a few bottles of wine," Stansel said. "I had a house fire when I was 15 years old and I know how devastating it can be."

Doctors confirmed Harskamp was a viable match and scheduled the surgery right away. The transplant is set to take place on Monday.

"I was elated! It was like a huge weight lifted off of me," Stansel said. "I suddenly started feeling better when I heard that she was a match."

Harskamp was not immediately available for an interview with ABC News, but she recently told ABC News Seattle affiliate KOMO that she was happy to help her co-worker.

"I mean, I lose a kidney. She gets to live, I'd say it's a pretty fair trade, right?" Harskamp said in the interview.

About 26 million U.S. adults have chronic kidney disease, which can be fatal if left untreated, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

Now, Stansel said she is encouraging others to register for organ donation. She said she’s already connected one person with two possible donors via social media.

"I’m going to help other people get kidneys," she said. "I know that I have a bigger mission ahead of me."

A spokesperson for Alaska Airlines did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

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