Salute Our Heroes: Soldier Township Firefighter saves four lives with kidney donation

Joel Stuke has been saving lives for 32 years as a Soldier Township volunteer firefighter...but he never imagined saving a life the way he did in 2019.
Published: Mar. 17, 2021 at 7:56 AM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Joel Stuke has been saving lives for almost 32 years as a Soldier Township Volunteer Firefighter, but he never imagined saving a life the way he did on December 17th 2019.

Joel said, “It’s an amazing gift to be able to give the gift of life to someone so, you never think that you’d be able to do that, but you do. You can see that it’s me giving what God’s given me to be able to give to someone else”.

On August of 2019, Joel’s aunt found out she needed a kidney. After blood tests and consultation visits, Stuke received a call that he was accepted for the transplant.

His wife, Tammy says it became clear that donating was the right thing to do and it manifested in little signs. One of the signs occurred after Joel’s final lab blood work visit, when he received a cranberry juice. He gave the drink to his wife, who has cranberry juice every morning for breakfast and on the foil lid was labeled the expiration date…December 17, 2019. This was Joel’s planned surgery date.

“I figured you know with my faith I’ll be fine. God will take care of that situation for me. If it’s supposed to happen, if it was meant to happen, it was going to happen,” Joel said.

What happened surprised everyone… Instead of Joel giving a kidney to his aunt, the two decided to enter into what is called a “paired kidney donation”. Joel’s kidney would go to another recipient, and his aunt would receive a kidney from someone else. The move would start a chain that would end up saving a total of four peoples’ lives, not just one.

After 8 weeks of recovery, Joel was back to work. He continues to maintain contact with the man that received his kidney. He says he usually tries to talk to him at least once or twice a month.

Sometimes all it takes is a little faith and a simple yes.

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