Sergeant Gives Kidney to Fellow Airman
(February 7, 2009)
Left to right, Air Force Staff Sgt. Andrew Jones, 58th
Maintenance Operations Squadron; Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Rodney
J. McKinley; Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adam Johnson, 58th MOS; and Air Force Master
Sgt. Harold Anderson, 58th MOS first sergeant, pose for a photo at Kirtland Air
Force Base, N.M., Dec. 12, 2008. Jones donated one of his kidneys to Johnson,
who was suffering from a rare immune system disorder. U.S. Air Force photo by
KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M., Feb. 5,
2009 -- On April 30, 2008, Air
Force Staff Sgt. Andrew Jones became what some would call
the "ultimate wingman."
Jones, a senior controller in the Maintenance Operations
Center of the 58th Maintenance Operations Squadron here,
gave one of his kidneys to Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adam
Johnson, a fellow controller who had been in total renal
failure for more than 22 months.
Johnson was suffering from a rare autoimmune disease known
as IgA nephropathy, which meant his body had turned against
itself and his immune system was killing his own kidneys. He
was undergoing long and painful dialysis treatments to
remove the toxins from his blood that his kidneys no longer
"Adam would come to work on Monday and he
would just be puffy. There's no other way to describe it,"
Air Force Maj. Mark O'Reilly, 58th MOS commander, said. "His
was ashen, and there were bags under his
eyes, but through it all, he never let it affect him or his professionalism."
Johnson's family all submitted to screening tests, but none
were found to be a viable donor. Six members of the 58th MOS
also volunteered to undergo screening; however, all but one
were quickly eliminated. The sixth, another MOC controller,
passed all but the last test before finding out that she,
too, was not a viable donor. |
After almost 18 months of dialysis, the prospects of finding
a kidney were starting to dim.
Then, in the summer of 2007, Jones joined the MOC team as a
weapons system controller. He heard about Johnson's fight
for life and his need for a kidney, and without any
hesitation, he volunteered to undergo the screening process.
The screening process is long and arduous. Besides the many
compatibility tests and invasive procedures to ensure a
donor kidney will be accepted by its host body, potential
donors also must undergo many hours of counseling and
psychological screenings. The tests are for the safety of
both the donor and the recipient and are meant to ensure the
donation is being made under proper legal and ethical
For Jones, this meant that many tests had to be performed
after long nights as the senior controller during the
midnight shift. Then, finally, on April 1, doctors cleared
Jones to donate one of his kidneys to Johnson.
"At first, I thought it was an April Fools
joke," Jones said.
The surgery took place April 30. For six hours, doctors
worked to remove the kidney from Jones and implant it into
"The kidney 'pinked up' immediately," Lorissa Johnson, the
recipient's wife, said. "Before long, the color returned to
Adam's face and his energy started coming back. He had so
much energy the nurses had to threaten to tie him down to
keep him in bed!"
Meanwhile, recovery for Jones was painful, at times making
even breathing unbearable. Family, friends and members of
the 58th MOS stood by him, and despite the struggles, Jones
never complained or regretted the decision.
"I felt that, for whatever reason, I was meant to be in the
MOC and to help [Johnson]," Jones said.
Johnson said he'll always feel gratitude toward Jones.
"It is truly a humbling experience to have to ask someone
outside of my family to give up an organ," he said.
"[Jones'] decision to donate rescued me from a miserable
existence on dialysis. His gift gave me my life back and
saved my military career, and I will always be grateful for
Both sergeants have fully recovered and continue to work
side by side in the MOC.
By Air Force Master Sgt. Darryl Bush|
58th Maintenance Operations Squadron
Special to American Forces Press Service
Forces Press Service / DoD
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