FARGO — For one boy, turning 14 recently meant celebrating his birthday just a little differently than he has before.
Ashton Hanson, Williston, N.D., is celebrating life thanks to a complete stranger on the other side of the state — a nurse from Fargo he didn't know before she came forward to donate a kidney.
The last couple of years have been beyond challenging for the teen. An uncommon, horrible kidney disease forced him to require dialysis every 10 hours.
Having FSGS (Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis) made it tough for Hanson to enjoy being a kid. He had been on dialysis since December 2017.
"It was hard hanging out with my friends because we had to get hooked up at 7:30," he explained.
In order to survive, Hanson needed a donor for a kidney transplant. Fargo nurse Jan Germundson answered the call after reading his story in her hometown's newspaper.
Germundson stays connected with her hometown and saw Hanson's story shared on Facebook by the Williston Herald.
"They mentioned an article about how he needed a kidney," she remembers. "I Facebook messaged (his mother) and told her I was willing to donate."
"When Jan had contacted me, I was like 'woo, yay' it is going to happen!' " said Melissa Lindvig. "But I did not want to get my hopes up too much."
But Germundson was motivated to help because Hanson's story hit close to home.
"I read that and realized that he was the same age as my daughter, so I felt that connection that way," she said. "(I) realized that if any of my kids were on dialysis or needed it, I would want someone to come forward if nobody in our family was able to provide a kidney."
Jan was tested for compatibility as a donor at the Mayo Clinic and after several months got word she was a great match.
A few weeks ago, she made a trip to Mayo again, where she would change the life of Ashton and his entire family by donating a part of herself to a complete stranger.
"I am in tears every day because of it . . . a complete stranger doing this for our family is wonderful," said Lindvig, who explained that her son has undergone an amazing change since the transplant. "He has been able to play with his friends. He loves going to school. He is just wonderful."
Germundson, a neonatal intensive care nurse with a family of her own, said her decision to help came after a difficult year of losing loved ones near and dear to her.
"It was really hard, and I figured if I could somehow prevent somebody else from having to go through the pain of losing a loved one then that was something I wanted to do," she said. "I prayed about it for a long time and it really felt that it was something God wanted me to do."