Pilot donates life-saving kidney to flight attendant

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An Alaska Airlines flight attendant is one step closer to retaking the skies after receiving a life-saving kidney transplant from inside the cockpit. Jenny Stansel’s surgeon told PEOPLE that Alaska Airlines pilot Jodi Harskamp’s donated a kidney immediately began working for the 38-year-old, who was on medical leave after being diagnosed with kidney failure in March 2016.

A GoFundMe page set up to help cover travel and medical expenses had detailed the run-up to the surgery, which included details about Stansel’s 10-hour daily dialysis regimen.

“Just last March 10 – one year to the day — was my very last day at work,” Stansel told Q13 Fox ahead of the March 13 transplant. “I had to take a passenger seat on my way home I was so sick.”

Stansel’s kidney failure was brought on by a lupus diagnosis 15 years earlier. She had sent out a company-wide email asking for a volunteer kidney donor who matched her O-positive blood type. Harskamp told Q13 Fox she remembered Stansel handing out flyers and setting up a Facebook page, and decided to volunteer when she discovered how sick she was.

“There’s a small chance that I will never return to flying if my remaining kidney does not pick up the slack for my removed kidney,” Harskamp, who has been flying with Alaska Airlines for 11 years, told Q13 Fox. “I’ve always said that my job is risk assessment, that’s what I do for a living, and I have determined that the reward in this is far greater than the risk. I’m going to lose a kidney, and she gets to live — it’s a pretty fair trade-off.”

Harskamp, who has two children and is based in Anchorage, Alaska, volunteered to fly to Seattle for pre-op testing and will spend several weeks away from her family for recovery.

“I have so much love for this Super hero!” Stansel, a mother of three, posted on their GoFundMe page.

The pair hope their story inspires others to become a volunteer donor in honor of March’s National Kidney Month.

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