FARGO — Noah Knudson left his home in Crosby to go cheer on Crosby's Junior Gold Hockey team playing in Fargo over the weekend. Knudson, a longtime hockey player in Divide County, was often sidelined in high school while dealing with a rare and complicated kidney disorder.
For five years, Knudson had dealt with the disorder. He was airlifted three times, and initially doctors had trouble giving him a diagnosis. His mom, Becky Knudson, remembers her son's flights to the Twin Cities, when specialists were still trying to figure out what was wrong.
"We struggled for about two years to find the diagnosis, and there were some conversations where the doctors said they have never seen this," said Becky Knudson. "They said they would try x, y and z to fix it or stabilize him, but we are not sure what it will mean in the end."
When doctors said Knudson needed a kidney transplant to survive, his hometown responded. Dozens and dozens of people were tested, including a newcomer to town, Knudson's pastor at Concordia Lutheran, Zach Shipman. He was a match.
"I was raised with the idea that giving what we have is what we are called to do," said Shipman, who agreed to donate a kidney to Knudson.
Knudson had the transplant when he was 20. Now 23, he is an engineer at an aerospace company in Jamestown. Knudson says he couldn't be more thankful to Shipman and stressed the importance of living donors.
"You saved someone's life and gave them a whole new chapter. I got my life back," Knudson said. "I graduated from NDSU and got a full-time job. I got my life back."
"Pastor Zach was so unselfish. He followed his heart. We are so forever grateful," Becky Knudson said.
Shipman said he found inspiration for donating in the Bible.
"'How does love abide in anyone who sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help?'" Shipman read.
On Sunday, March 14, the National Kidney Foundation and Sanford Health are hosting a virtual "Big Ask: Big Give" event as an opportunity for people to learn more about being a living donor.
To learn how to sign up to help others find living donors, visit https://www.kidney.org/events/babg-finding-living-donor/babg-finding-living-donor-nkf-serving-south-dakota..