Jan Germundson may no longer live in Williston, North Dakota, but that doesn't stop her from keeping tabs on her hometown. She still reads the Williston Herald and follows the paper's Facebook page from her home in Horace, North Dakota, where she works as a registered nurse. In 2018, there was one story that affected Jan like no other.
It was the story of then-12-year-old Ashton Hanson, who the Herald reported was in Williston fighting a progressive kidney disease that would end his young life if Ashton did not receive the kidney transplant he and his family were hoping for.
Jan tells her hometown paper two things about Ashton's story immediately resonated with her. The first was that Ashton was the same age as one of her own children. The second was that she and Ashton had the same blood type. "I knew from his blood type we would be a match," Jan says. "I did all the tests, and it just seemed like something God wanted me to do. I just kind of felt a connection."
After talking with family and friends, Jan was compelled to send her blood work to Mayo Clinic in Rochester to find out if she would be able to donate a kidney to Ashton. A short time later, Jan was asked to come to Mayo Clinic, where she underwent "extensive testing" that was just as much for her benefit as it was Ashton's. "We have to be confident that we are not going to hurt the donor," Ashton's surgeon, Mikel Prieto, M.D., tells the Herald of the additional testing Jan went through. "We want the healthy person who doesn't need surgery and is just doing this to help someone to have the confidence that they are going to have a safe surgery with no significant long-term side effects."
Now that the transplant is done, Ashton is "back home and back at school" and working his way through a "bucket list" of things "he couldn't do before he got his new kidney," the paper reports.
And for that, Ashton's mom, Melissa Lindvig, tells the Herald she and the rest of her family are forever indebted. "Words cannot express our gratitude to Jan," Melissa says. "She has given Ashton a new life, which extends to our family also. She and her family will always be in our prayers."
While the impact of Jan's life-saving gift to Ashton cannot be overstated, Dr. Prieto tells the Herald it's a gift that can be given by anyone who's willing and able to do what she did. "If they are brave enough to go through a small surgery and do this for someone else, it changes the life of someone who needs it — you basically save a life by doing this," Dr. Prieto says of choosing to become a living organ donor. "The outcomes of the surgery are fantastic, so it is a great thing you can do for someone."
You can read more of Jan and Ashton's story here. Then offer up your comments below before using the social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.