We don’t usually post things like this, but this story on our corporate intranet, about a Visa employee who donated a kidney to save a co-worker’s life, was so inspiring we wanted to share with our broader Visa family and followers:”
On the Job Just Two Months, Sharon Culpepper Takes Heroic Action for Her New Friend and Colleague Jason Neukirk
Ask Sharon Culpepper and she’ll tell you every office could use a Jason Neukirk.
“I relocated from Florida to work for Visa in Ashburn, Va. last October,” said Sharon, Account Executive. “On my first day, I met Jason. He always had a big smile and was very friendly, and he was extremely knowledgeable and happy to help me in my new surroundings.”
Jason, who was a contractor working for Visa at the time, sat near Sharon and made it a point to e-mail an occasional joke to her to ensure she felt welcomed and included as part of the team. But one day in December Jason came to work and Sharon immediately knew something was amiss.
“Jason wears his heart on his sleeve,” she said. “That day, he wasn’t smiling. He didn’t offer up any jokes. So I asked him if he was ok.”
The response was devastating. “I have kidney disease,” he said. “I’m dying.”
A Long Road
Jason was suffering from a hereditary kidney illness that had killed his mother and his grandmother. For the past two years, he had been on a waiting list for a new kidney and on dialysis three times a week during evenings after work.
“My first thought was ‘Wow, you would never know he was suffering from this,’” Sharon said. For Jason, her next reaction was as unexpected as the news Sharon had just received: “I asked him how I could get tested to see if I was a match. He just looked at me in disbelief.”
“I thought she was joking,” he said.
Jason had been down that road before: Other friends had offered to donate a kidney, but due to various reasons, his lifeline never materialized. Grateful, but still not getting his hopes up, he gave Sharon the information she requested.
She contacted Georgetown University Medical Center that same day and put the wheels in motion to become a donor. After completing several forms and medical tests — some difficult, and some more than once — Sharon learned that she was a perfect match. “I was hopeful, but it still wasn’t real yet,” Jason said. “I knew that until the transplant team approves the operation, it’s still a ‘maybe.’”
Weeks later, that approval finally came.
“You’re Going to Save My Life”
“I was out to lunch with another colleague when I got the call,” Sharon said. “I was so shocked and excited! Before we returned to the office I picked up a big balloon with a smiley face on it, and I attached a note that said ‘What are you doing on March 31?’ — the date for which the surgery was scheduled.”
When she returned to the office, Sharon gave the balloon to Jason. To her surprise, he hadn’t received the news yet.
“When I told him, he grabbed me so hard and I could feel him tremble. Then he looked at me and said ‘You’re going to save my life.’”
On March 31, more than three months after Sharon took the first step toward becoming a donor, she and Jason went into the hospital for the transplant procedure. Hours later, as hospital staff started to wheel Sharon out of post-operation recovery to her room, she caught a quick glimpse of Jason, who offered her a wave. The transplant was a success.
The Road to Recovery
During the next few days, both Sharon and Jason bounced back at a rate that surprised medical professionals and made brisk progress down the road to recovery. While in the hospital together, Jason and Sharon paid regular visits to each other’s rooms and reveled in the amazing experience they had shared.
During that time, their Visa colleagues kept the two in full supply of flowers, care packages and well wishes.
A week after the surgery, Sharon was working from home. A week after that, she was back in the office. As the kidney recipient, full recovery for Jason would take a bit longer — generally about two to three months.
Toward the end of that period, Jason visited the office and was overwhelmed by the greetings and support of those with whom he’d worked. Speaking about his visit, Jason said. “There were so many people I ran into who stopped me to say hello and wish me well. I didn’t realize how many connections I’d made at Visa.”
“Everything Happens for a Reason”
Looking back on the experience, Jason reflected, “What Sharon did for me is the most wonderful gift I’ve ever received in my life. I just love her. I was totally blown away by her generosity, her willingness to do this for someone she hardly knew.” Ask Sharon and she’ll tell you she’d do it all over again. “For a while, Jason thought I didn’t understand what a serious thing it was I was doing … but I did. It just felt right. He has a wonderful family — a 14-year-old son and a beautiful wife, who coincidentally is also the recipient of a donated kidney. When you do good things and help other people, good things happen to you.”
Posted by: Patty Callahan, Visa InSite team on June 21, 2011 at 4:05 pm