April is Organ Donor Awareness Month.
Which has extra significance to Luke Hartmann, 35, from Dubuque, Iowa and Jonathan Clement, 28, from Carlock, Illinois.
Last April, Hartman donated a kidney to Clement, whose own kidneys had been slowly deteriorating for years as a result of high blood pressure.
“I would rather see somebody live a better life because of what I donated than be selfish,” Hartmann said.
Their friendship began in 2006 when Hartmann enrolled at Illinois Central College after spending four years in the U.S. Air Force. There, he met Clement and the two quickly bonded.
“We always hung out quite a bit,” Hartmann said. “The guys would always call me ‘Grandpa’ because I was older.”
Hartmann did not know that Clement had a serious and worsening medical problem.
Their friendship took on new meaning in October 2015, when Hartmann noticed a social media post from Clement’s mother mentioning that his kidneys were failing.
“I’m reading it and nothing really triggered.” Hartmann said.
But then Hartmann contacted Clement’s mom and took a few tests to see if he would match as a donor.
“We got the results back and it said I was a positive donor,” Hartmann said.
So after talking about the possibility of donating a kidney with his wife and family, Hartmann gave Clement a call.
“What are you doing April?,” Hartmann said. “I got a kidney if you want it.”
The usually talkative Clement was silent, before agreeing.
“What do you tell someone that is giving you life?,” Clement said.
The procedure was scheduled and in April 2016, Hartmann went through with the donation through the OSF Saint Francis medical center transplant team. Hartmann was confident, but admitted he had a few concerns.
“The biggest thing going through my head were the ‘what ifs.” What if my body needs a kidney? But I felt it is something I can do now,” Hartmann said.
Clement says he was on the donor list for a year-and-a-half, his kidneys slowly worsening
“I was dealing with fear; it as just creeping on me,” Clement said.
Prior to the procedure, Clement was increasingly sluggish. He took a couple months to recover from the surgery, but then noticed his energy coming back. He’s begun eating healthy and running.
“I took his running kidney,” Clement said jokingly.
Clement takes medicine daily and his instructed to drink a lot of water.
Hartmann says he was up and moving in a half-hour after the procedure.
“It was something that I can give to someone that can truly affect the rest of his life,” Hartmann.
Clement is still grateful, joking that he does not know if it’s possible to repay Hartmann.
He’s off to a good start, though. Clement asked Hartmann to stand in his wedding in October, about two years after he agreed to donate a kidney.