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Friend answers kidney call

It's one thing to give a friend the shirt off your back, quite another to give them the kidney out of your abdomen - but that's what Jenny Jarvenpaa aims to do.

It's one thing to give a friend the shirt off your back, quite another to give them the kidney out of your abdomen - but that's what Jenny Jarvenpaa aims to do.

Jarvenpaa, 26, has passed the first round of tests to see if she may be a suitable donor for her good friend Kelsey Jordan, also 26.

Jarvenpaa is currently on her way to London England, where Jordan now lives, to do the "cross match test" to see if her blood is compatible.

"They just mix the blood and if it clots and the blood cells start killing each other, then we're not a match."

However, if the blended blood behaves itself, then Jarvenpaa will have past a significant hurtle towards handing over one of her kidneys to her high school buddy. The two met in Grade 9 at what was then Steveston High.

"Ever since I met Kelsey, this has been in the back of my mind, because donated kidneys don't usually last more than eight years. Her's has lasted 22," said Jarvenpaa. "She doesn't owe that kidney anything," Jarvenpaa added with a laugh.

Jordan was born with end-stage kidney disease and received a donated kidney at age four.

That kidney served her well until just before she got married last October. At that point, she was told she had 18 months before her kidney would give out and she'd be on dialysis.

Jordan's family quickly put the word out to friends and family asking them to think about donating.

Jarvenpaa was quick to answer the call. "The success rate from a living donor is much higher," said Jarvenpaa.

Also, Kelsey wouldn't be put on a list to receive a kidney from a deceased donor because she's still too healthy.

In classic Catch-22 fashion: The sicker the person is, the greater the chance he/she will receive a kidney, and the lesser the chance the transplant will be successful. But while Jarvenpaa was quick to get tested, she admits she had concerns about her own health and what it would mean to go the rest of her life with just one kidney.

"I work in the health services (Jarvenpaa is a part-time ambulance attendant) so I have quite a few resources."

Still, she said she'd like to talk to someone who has gone through the process as a living donor.

As far as the long-term effect, she is confident that one kidney can pretty well do the job of two.

"When you lose a kidney the remaining kidney will grow and start to over function. Our bodies are built to be higher functioning than they need to be."

In the short-term, there is the surgery and multiple months of recovery, all to be done in a foreign country away from friends and family.

Apart from the pain and discomfort, there is the cost. Jarvenpaa is paying for this trip because she and her husband are going to make a two-week vacation out of it. But if she's a match, and has to return in a few months for surgery, it will get expensive.

Jordan's family is hosting a fundraiser, A Kidney for Kelsey, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. at the UBC Boathouse to help offset the costs for whoever is willing to donate. It will feature a silent auction and musical theatre performance.

"It would just be nice if it wasn't detrimental to our finances, on top of everything else," said Jarvenpaa. "But, at end of day, cost isn't going to stop me from donating."

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