A gift of life: Bloomfield native donating kidney to northern Indiana woman
The gift of life is indeed something to be cherished and a 22-year-old Bloomfield native plans to take a bold step later this month and do his part to make sure a northern Indiana mother has a full life with her family.
Jonathan Stewart, who's known as "Stewy" by his friends and family, will donate his left kidney to a 30-year-old mother in a transplant operation planned for July 31 at Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis.
Stewart has never met the woman, but said there's a real special reason he came to the decision to give up his healthy functioning kidney and be a donor.
He's doing it to honor of his late uncle, Joseph Anthony Hajdinak, of rural Solsberry, who died Nov. 28, 2008 and also another "dear friend" from Bloomfield, who recently died.
Both men died from complications associated with diabetes.
Jon had intentions to originally donate one of his kidneys to his ill uncle. However, his uncle expectedly died of a heart attack before the transplant plans could be finalized.
"He (his uncle) was all excited and we were talking about it," Jon recalled. "He was my absolute best friend of all times. I would have done anything for him."
After his death, Jon removed his name from the donor list, but said he was left with a void and didn't feel completely whole.
"I wanted to do something so much for somebody in order to give them a second chance," he said. "This donation is for two very important people who I feel suffered through this horrible sickness, but were unable to prevail, but yet lived life to the fullest every day. As far as I'm concerned, the way I look at this thing (the transplant) everybody makes mistakes in their lives, people who work their tail off and some times they just don't ever get the opportunity or what I would call a second chance. This is my way of remembering two very strong souls who did everything they could to live for their families, but unfortunately God had different plans for them," he explained.
Jon continued, "I am doing this to give a very nice beautiful young woman that has a 2-year-old child and a husband a second chance at life so she doesn't have to feel sick every day of her life and also she will soon have the energy to be able to do the things she wants with her daughter.
Stewart, a 2005 Bloomfield High School graduate and a current student at Indiana University in Bloomington, will have the opportunity to meet his kidney recipient -- Kristine Marcoux -- for the first time on Saturday when he travels to her home to introduce himself to her entire family.
The woman, according to Stewart, has been in kidney failure for the last two years -- since her only daughter was born -- and she has undergone regular dialysis treatments.
"I spoke with her husband last night to set up the event and meet up with her. It's been very exciting. To me, in my mind, it's not like I am just saving another person's life. I am in a sense at the age of 22, I'm going to have a 30-year-old daughter," he said with a laugh. "She is going to be able to see her world in a new light now instead of questioning how much longer does she have to live."
Jon explained that the recipient suffers from a kidney disease that came after she had high blood pressure at a very early age. She was told by doctors that she probably couldn't conceive a child. They later told her it was OK.
"She had the child and then both of her kidneys failed at that point," Jon said.
The kidneys are paired organs, which have the production of urine as their primary function. They are part of the urinary system, but have several secondary functions concerned with homeostatic functions. These include the regulation of electrolytes, acid-base balance, and blood pressure.
Jon said it's unique and a literal stroke of good luck how he was matched up with Kristine.
He works part-time at Best Buy store in Bloomington and was talking to his manager one day about possibly taking some time off in the future to undergo the kidney donation surgical procedures. In the course of the conversation, the manager mentioned his sister in law was in need of a transplant.
Jon then began checking into the possibility for being a match with her and everything has worked out.
"I had no one in particular that I was going to donate it (the kidney) to. I was just going to donate it to any random person. I asked him to tell me more and he told me about her little girl and all of what she'd been through. I told him that I was going to get tested and within two months later, she and I were a match and here we are," Stewart explained.
Jon said he was deeply touched when he talked with Kristine's husband on the telephone.
"He and I were literally in tears over the phone," he said. "He said,' Me and my wife, we owe you everything.' I told him the only thing I ever ask or expect from anyone is to hear the remarkable stories of these two men and just enjoy life and live it to the fullest. He told me that I am now an official part of his family. My nickname from them now is 'Uncle Stewy'."
When asked what kind of thought and prayer went into his decision, Jon said, "I wanted to close the door with uncle's death. I told my Mom there are two things that I have been given as my gift from God. One is that I can make about anybody laugh. Then, also I found out that when I was checking into this for my uncle that my blood type (O-negative) is universal. That means that I can match up almost anybody and everybody. That's when I decided I have these things and I need to use these gifts."
Stewart is the son of Dave and Anne Stewart of Bloomfield. During his school days he was an active performing member of the choral groups and drama productions.
Now, he's studying tourism management and minoring in musical theatre. He'll finish his degree in about three semesters.
For the last two summers, he's been a part of the cast at Shawnee Summer Theatre in Bloomfield -- appearing in Godspell in 2008 and The Wedding Singer this summer.
Jon said he recognizes that most people donate organs after they die, but he wanted to do it now.
"Everyone deserves a second chance ... to enter a new life," Stewart said.
Stewart called himself a spiritual person and said his decision to be a donor did not come lightly and not without a lot of prayer.
There are risks of infection and the possibility he might develop high blood pressure later in life in being a donor.
He's undergone extensive blood work and testing prior to his procedure.
His final decision to be a donor came on May 17 during a visit to the grave yard where both his uncle and friend are buried.
While standing in front of his uncle's grave, Jon asked himself, "should I do this?"
"I broke down in tears. It was like I had this persons standing behind me with his hands on my shoulders and to say yes," Jon recalled. "I didn't get the chance to save him, but I'm getting a chance now not only to save this woman, but I'm getting a chance to save her child from not having a mother. It was the most amazing feeling I've ever had in my life."