They share resources in their Total Force structure, but neither anticipated the personal, life-saving agreement the two would forge when one faced the reality of a debilitating disease.
Knudson commands the Air Force Reserve’s 419th Fighter Wing. Long heads the active-duty 388th. They were strangers when Long transferred to Hill AFB last spring, but Long soon learned that his counterpart was facing the battle of his life.
According to an Air Force Reserve Command news release, Knudson learned during a routine flight physical in early 2011 that he had Berger’s disease and would need dialysis or a kidney transplant. He was placed on a donor recipient list and undertook a restrictive diet to stabilize his condition.
When Long heard about it, he quickly agreed to be a donor. Knudson said he politely accepted the offer but didn’t really expect his command partner to follow through.
“A lot of people say that,” Knudson is quoted in the AFRC press account. “It seems like the right thing to say; whereas when people really peel it back, taking that step is something entirely different.”
Yet Long was serious. Initial testing showed his kidneys were not functioning at the required capacity to be a donor. Diet changes fixed that and follow-on tests confirmed that Long was a near perfect match. The results astounded the doctors, particularly since several of Knudson’s family members had been tested and none met the required criteria.
Following through with the surgery is a no-brainer, Long reported. “He’s a friend in need. I’m extending his life,” he told AFRC writer Lt. Col. Kim Ponders. “I only need one kidney to lead a normal life. It’s a win-win.”
The procedure is not without risk for Long. Surgical complications are a possibility. If those occur, his own health and career could be placed in jeopardy. On the other hand, a successful procedure would add many years to Knudson’s life.
Long said his leaders support his decision. “They’ve given me nothing but solid encouragement,” he noted. “We’re taking Total Force Integration to a different level. We’re talking total organ integration.”
Knudson’s reaction is short and to the point. “(Scott) is an amazing person,” he said.
The AFRC report said diet has stabilized Knudson’s kidneys, delaying surgery probably until some time next year. Long said that was fine with him.
“It’s simple for me,” the active-duty colonel explained. “I’m excited to do it. When they call, that’s it. I’m there.”