SkyView Academy to host blood drive benefiting one of its own
SkyView Academy parent to receive kidney transplant with blood replenished by SkyView students and families
HIGHLANDS RANCH-- At SkyView Academy (SVA), community service is part of the school’s mission statement and considered one of the “five pillars” that helps to make this preschool-twelfth grade public charter school unique. While the school’s anatomy classes have organized blood drives in the past, little did anyone know that the event this year would ultimately benefit one of its own.
Steven Kostiuk is a proud SkyView Academy parent of three girls and guardian to his nephew. 15 years ago, he was diagnosed with Lupus Nephritis, an autoimmune disease that makes the body believe there’s an infection, sending white blood cells that aren’t needed, which in turn damage organs. His body attacked his kidneys, and while medication helped to control the disease for a time, it was clear in August 2015 that he would need a kidney transplant. He was not approved for the procedure until December. But he knew that the wait for a kidney in Colorado from a deceased donor could be five to seven years.
Ultimately, the damage to his kidneys led to renal failure. In October 2015, his kidneys had shut down and he went on dialysis three times per week. Kostiuk has endured multiple surgeries since late 2015 and is now on dialysis for eight hours every night which radically alters his quality of life.
Facing a steady physical decline, Kostiuk wanted to take matters into his own hands, starting a social media campaign in November 2015 to find his own donor. Unbeknownst to him, a former high school football teammate living in Utah began following his story. The old classmate started the process to see if he was a donor match, even secretly driving to Colorado a few times in the process. In the meantime, Kostiuk had car magnets made with his phone number asking for a donor; to date, he’s recorded about 70 incoming calls.
In early April 2016, Mrs. Jeri Bisbee, SVA Elementary Principal, saw Kostiuk’s car magnet. After speaking with him about ways in which the school could assist him and his family, she reached out to the school’s anatomy teacher who graciously allowed Bisbee to run with her plan of creating a school-wide “replenishment” blood drive in honor of Kostiuk.
Less than one week later, Kostiuk got the call that his high school teammate was, in fact, a match. He has not seen the friend for 20 years, but it is sure to be an emotional reunion on May 9 when the donor arrives in Colorado. The transplant surgery is scheduled for May 16.
“I was at work when I got the call and I just started crying,” Kostiuk said. “It is hard to put into words what I’m feeling about my teammate’s generosity and sacrifice. I’m scared out of my mind for the surgery, but am also really looking forward to being able to do so many things that I haven’t been able to do. He’s giving me a remarkable gift.”
"I don’t think most people realize you can be a living donor,” Kostiuk explained. “I'm on a mission now to help others and raise awareness for kidney failure. While my old friend came to my rescue, there are still 5,000 other Coloradans in need. It's a difficult state to live in; we live in one of the healthier states, which is awesome, but on the other hand, this means the death rate for eligible donors is very low so supply and demand for organ transplants is growing. It's a five to seven year wait for a kidney donation from a deceased donor. The average life expectancy for people on dialysis is seven to ten years. If I lived in Nebraska, the wait time would be less than a year.”
“It's not widely known that people can be living donors for your kidney or liver,” Kostiuk continued. “Most people sign up to be a deceased donor which is great, but just imagine helping save a life while you're still alive?” Reflecting on his journey, Steve is thoughtful. “The hardest part about all of it is asking for help. I've met a lot of people on dialysis that don't know how to ask for help. One thing I will say is the advertising I did on our cars has brought so many wonderful people into my life. I've had about 50 or so offers from complete strangers across the country. Many of those people didn't know you could be a living donor.”
SkyView Academy is poised to come together to support a tremendous cause, and they hope the community will join them on May 10 when Bonfils Blood Bank will be conducting a blood drive on their property in honor of Kostiuk’s upcoming transplant surgery. The Bloodmobile will be on SVA grounds at 6161 Business Center Drive, Highlands Ranch, 80130 from 8:00 a.m. - 9:40 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. For more information or to schedule an appointment please call 303-363-2300 or visit www.bonfils.org and use site code #A561.