Port Angeles residents Sasha Alder-Turk and Chad Lundquist in Costa Rica before settling in Washington. (Brian P. Sokol)

Port Angeles residents Sasha Alder-Turk and Chad Lundquist in Costa Rica before settling in Washington. (Brian P. Sokol)

Saving a soul mate: Peninsula couple prepare for two surgeries

PORT ANGELES — She would certainly give her soul mate her kidney if she could.

But because Sasha Alder-Turk does not share 20-year partner Chad Lundquist’s O blood type, she’ll do the next best thing: donate to a compatible patient in a five-person donor chain around January.

Twelve days before Christmas, Lundquist will receive a kidney from another living donor in that chain.

As the Port Angeles couple prepares for two surgeries, the American Living Organ Donor Fund has set up a crowd-funding page on Generosity, “Help Sasha Save Her Soulmate Chad,” to recover some of their travel expenses and lost wages. As of Monday, $975 of an $8,000 goal had been raised by 16 people in about a month.

“We believe it isn’t fair that organ donors should suffer financially after saving someone’s life,” Washington, D.C., Director Hajime Rojas of the American Living Organ Donor Fund wrote in an email.

Lundquist, once an award-winning photojournalist, has not worked in a year. Alder-Turk, a paralegal case manager, missed about 11 weeks of work in 2017, she said.

“Our reserves are tapped and the ‘real’ surgeries [and recoveries] have not even taken place yet,” Alder-Turk wrote on the Generosity page.

Meanwhile, Lundquist and Alder-Turk hope to foster awareness of the need for living organ donors, despite the financial implications.

“If everybody looked into donating, there wouldn’t be a shortage,” Lundquist said. “There’s no need for it.”

“It’s not a half measure,” he continued. “It is life and death.”

About 18 years ago, then 21-year-old Lundquist received a diagnosis of end-stage renal disease in a ski town emergency room on Memorial Day. His sister Lisa Weisenberger, 31 years old at the time, donated her kidney to save her brother’s life.

The average transplanted kidney from a living donor lasts about 15 years, according to the National Kidney Federation.

For nearly two decades, Lundquist scrupulously protected the organ he had been given.

“My sister showed me what deep love for a human being gave me,” he said. “I didn’t want to waste that gift.”

Lundquist and Alder-Turk — and Weisenberger’s kidney — spent those 18 years traveling 100,000 miles across the United States on a motorcycle, sailing across the Pacific Ocean, surfing in Costa Rica and French Polynesia and settling in Port Angeles, where Lundquist built Alder-Turk a timber home near the Elwha River by hand.

“I think Chad has had to face his mortality at such a young age that we’ve learned not to take life for granted,” Alder-Turk said.

Now, Weisenberger’s kidney — functioning at about 5 percent — is failing in Lundquist’s body.

Recently, an altruistic donor came forward to “unlock” a kidney chain. That person will donate a kidney to someone who has a donor (though they do not match for incompatible blood types or other medical reasons), and that donor will then donate a kidney to Lundquist.

His transplant is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 13, at the University of Washington Medical Center. Alder-Turk, in turn, will continue the chain by donating a kidney around January.

They’ve been awaiting these dates since late 2016 when Lundquist’s creatinine levels rose, signaling abnormal kidney function.

Recalling the past 12 months of two-hour-and-a-ferry drives for medical care, dialysis appointments three times per week and a flurry of complications, Lundquist turned to face Alder-Turk, still clenching his hand.

“I don’t think I’d be here without you,” he said.

“When times got difficult, when I was just done with all the catheters, surgeries, needles, when I got tired of lying in hospital beds, she’s been there,” Lundquist said.

The couple met while skiing in November 1997 at Sierra-at-Tahoe resort in Twin Bridges, Calif. Alder-Turk tumbled down the bunny hill and landed — fortuitously for both parties — at Lundquist’s feet.

“How about a photo?” he proposed.

(“I was one of those cheesy ski area photographers, with the skis held off to the side and the big grin,” Lundquist recalled. “Yeah, I was that guy.”)

“Are you serious?” she said. “I just fell.”

Sidestepping this rejection, Lundquist offered to buy her hot chocolate at the lodge instead.

“Maybe later.”

One month later, Alder-Turk returned to the lodge and found Lundquist.

“How about that hot chocolate now?” she said.

“We’ve been inseparable ever since,” Alder-Turk said, laughing.

December marks Lundquist’s and Alder-Turk’s 20th anniversary.

The past year has tested the couple beyond comprehension, Alder-Turk said, but it’s also brought them closer than ever before.

“Every couple has their contrasts, their little squabbles, but we just put all of that aside,” she said. “I don’t think we’ve ever been this close.”

They’re hopeful for a happier season of life ahead — free from catheters, surgeries, dialysis appointments, needles and disheartening news.

“We’re both really eager to put the fear, sickness, dread, panic and anxiety of this year behind us,” Alder-Turk said.

They long to feel carefree, enjoy the peace and solace of the Elwha, walk the woods with their dog, entertain guests, explore, wander and travel to Seattle for pleasure, rather than hospital stays, she said.

They simply long for “normal.”

Alder-Turk’s Christmas wish list for Lundquist includes: healing, improved blood work, normalized blood pressure, regained muscle mass and time again to write songs, cook “incredible concoctions” and work in his dark room.

“This will be the Christmas gift of a lifetime!!!” she wrote of the coming transplant.

To donate, visit www.generosity.com/medical-fundraising/help-sasha-save-her-soulmate-chad.

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