For more than a year, Alaska Airlines flight attendant Jenny Stansel has been too sick to fly.
She desperately needs a kidney transplant to survive.
She found one in the cockpit.
In a five-hour surgery Monday, Capt. Jodi Harskamp will donate one of her two kidneys to Stansel, one of her crew members.
Both are based in Anchorage but are in Seattle for surgery at the Swedish Transplant Center.
Four years ago, the two didn’t even know each other.
Harskamp was on maternity leave from Alaska when her roof suddenly burst into flames.
She and her newborn son got out of the home they shared with Harskamp’s husband and the couple’s young daughter, but their home was a total loss. Her co-workers at Alaska Airlines showed their support with food donations.
One of the first to drop something off for the family was Alaska flight attendant Jenny Stanse, who showed up “with this wonderful lasagna and some bottles of wine,” Harskamp told KIRO-TV on Thursday.
“She didn’t know me, I didn’t know her. She just said, here’s a lasagna and good luck.”
At the time, Stansel had been suffering with chronic kidney disease for more than a decade.
Stansel and Harskamp soon flew on the same Alaska crew together many times and became friends.
In March of 2016, Stansel became too sick to work. Her doctor said she would die without a kidney transplant.
Harskamp was tested immediately: perfect match.
“She had actually said, ‘I am going to serve you my kidney in an ice bucket on the drink cart,” Stansel recalled. “From the very beginning, she had no doubt that she was going to be my donor and I kind of felt the same way.”
The transplant will happen at Swedish in Seattle on Monday. Both women are eager for Stansel to be healthy.
“I always say, I’m going to lose a kidney but she’s going to live.
It’s a pretty fair trade-off, and pain is temporary,” the pilot told KIRO-TV.
It’s “so bizarre that she would end up being my perfect match; we’re just so alike in a lot of ways,” Stansel said.
Harskamp must be cleared by a flight surgeon and the FAA before she can pilot a commercial jet again. Pilots must pass strict health tests in order to fly, and undergoing transplant surgery may jeopardize Harskamp’s career. Despite knowing this, she knew she had to help a friend in need.
She hopes to be back at work within a month.
Stansel’s recovery will take longer. She has to make sure her body is strong enough to endure what she calls “the germ-filled tube” she works in.