Officer Lindsey Bittorf became an unlikely hero this summer after answering the call to serve and protect. But not in a way you might think.
She first was introduced to 8-year-old Jackson Arneson in mid-March, after reading his mother’s Facebook post pleading for a kidney donor. Jackson was born was posterior urethral valves, causing his kidneys to gradually lose function every year. After years of deterioration, he was left in desperate need of a transplant. Jackson needed a living kidney donor, with type O positive blood, and as many matching antigens as possible.
Jackson’s mother, Kristi Goll, grew desperate after no family members turned out to be a match. Odds were one in one thousand that a stranger would match Jackson’s needs, but Goll took a chance and posted their story on Facebook. The story was shared more than 1,400 times and many viewers reached out to Goll to let her know they were being tested.
But after a month, there was no success.
This is where Bittorf stepped in. After seeing the original Facebook post, she immediately contacted Goll and told her she matched the criteria. She immediately began the lengthy process to vet her health and test her compatibility with Jackson. Strangely enough, Bittorf is an officer with the Milton Police Department, not far from Jackson’s hometown of Janesville, Wis.
As Bittorf moved through each test and evaluation, she was unable to notify Jackson’s family of her progress due to patient privacy laws. But a couple of months later, she received the news everyone had hoped for: She was a match! Not only was her blood type a match, but three of six antigens matched those of Jackson’s — a near miracle.
Bittorf wanted to surprise Jackson’s family with the good news, and surprised the entire family one day by showing up at the grandparents’ house. This was the first time they were able to speak face to face.
On June 22, Bittorf underwent her kidney removal surgery at the University of Wisconsin Hospital. Shortly thereafter, Jackson received the kidney at American Family Children’s Hospital. Both surgeries were successful, but both Bittorf and Jackson will be continually monitored to avoid complications.
Jackson’s family is eternally grateful for the gift of a healthy life. But if you asked Bittorf, she’d tell you it comes with the territory.
“They do a risk assessment during this — it was a .03% risk to my life to donate,” she told CNN. “And I take bigger chances than that going to work every day.”
The families have remained close and continue to help each other day to day. Goll gives Bittorf rides as she continues to recover, and they all celebrated Jackson’s ninth birthday soon after the surgery.