Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Mr. Stans searches for donor

Retired teacher needs a kidney transplant

Express Staff Writer

A good-humored John Stansberry explains his degenerative liver disease that necessitates a kidney transplant. Photo by Willy Cook

After 35 years of giving to others through education, John Stansberry needs a gift of his own—a kidney. Stansberry, known to many of his former students as Mr. Stans, is looking for a new organ to replace his failing kidney.

Unfortunately, a kidney is not something easily located. The retired Hemingway Elementary teacher is one of thousands waiting for a kidney transplant. As of Monday, Nov. 15, The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network reported that 60,177 people in the United States are awaiting kidney transplants.

Despite the discouraging statistics, Stansberry maintains an incredibly positive outlook.

"You've got to do what you've got to do," he remarked.

His jovial nature and contagious smile that made him a favorite among his students disguise the symptoms he deals with daily. He explained he suffers from a lack of energy, severe itching, shaking, constricted muscles and insomnia.

"I deal with all these things. I have to keep a smile on my face and just do it," Stansberry said.

Now retired from teaching, his incredibly positive outlook and ability to inspire remains forefront in his students' lives.

"The optimistic attitude that I carry today was fueled by my memory of his radiating presence. It could fill anyone with hope or at least put a smile on their face," Cassidy Doucette, a Community School senior, said.

Steve Dondero, also a former student of Stansberry's commented, "After all my years of school, including college, he still stands out as my most inspirational teacher. He had a particular way of bringing the full potential out of students. He had a coined phrase 'Go the extra mile,' which always stuck with me all through school."

Now Stansberry hopes someone will go beyond the extra mile by donating a kidney. Following his doctor's advice, Stansberry is actively searching for a donor. Donations come from cadavers and living donors.

"What I got back (by donating a kidney) was so huge, so unbelievable. I didn't really think about that going in. If you give another life, you also get a life," Page Jenner, a friend of Stansberry's explained. In 2001, Jenner donated one of his kidneys to a friend. He is one of a rising number of live donors to donate through a surgically process that moves a healthy kidney from one person to another.

A kidney is the most common organ donated by living donors. Most people have two kidneys and only need one to live normally. According to the National Kidney Foundation, prospective living donors must have a compatible blood and tissue type and undergo a physical examination to determine compatibility. The process is paid for by the recipients insurance.

"It's such an up for you personally. You don't even realize what you will get back," Jenner said.

Ten years ago, doctors removed one of Stansberry's kidneys. Now, his other kidney is failing due to IGA, a degenerative disease that progressively disables the kidney from clearing wastes out of the body. He begins home dialysis treatment next week, which prompted his search.

Many times kidney donors are found in the immediate family. John's wife Pat considered donating, but her high blood pressure ruled her ineligible.

John's 90-year-old father also asked his doctor if he could offer a kidney.

Because the condition may be inherited, the Stansberrys shy away from having their sons donate. According to the National Kidney Foundation the causes of the disease are not well understood. The disease is found in certain families, suggesting genetics may play a role. Pat also has a family history of diabetes, which further complicates a family donation.

So, like an old car needs a new starter, Stansberry hopes someone will help him replace a vital component of his own engine by donating a kidney.

A fund has been set up for Stansberry at Wells Fargo bank in Ketchum. For more information contact 720-6057.

To learn more about organ donation go to

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