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Shaneyfelt encourages others to ‘Donate Life’
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Turlock Christian student Jaxon Shaneyfelt was joined by his family on Monday to raise the ‘Donate Life’ flag at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Stanford (Photo contributed).

Jaxon Shaneyfelt of Turlock knows first-hand just how valuable organ donors are. If it wasn’t for his living kidney donor, Sarah Best of Sacramento, it’s likely that the 14-year-old would not be alive today.

The month of April marks National Donate Life Month, which is celebrated annually to encourage individuals to register as organ, eye and tissue donors while celebrating those who have saved lives through donation. To ring in festivities each year, hospitals around the country host flag raising ceremonies. Chosen as an honorary flag raiser at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital on Monday was Shaneyfelt, who, after being diagnosed with a rare kidney disease, was treated at the Stanford Medical Center facilities for more than a year as he searched and eventually was matched with a donor.

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Shaneyfelt, who attends Turlock Christian School, was diagnosed in December 2022 with juvenile nephronophthisis, a fibrosis that impairs kidney function and leads to life-threatening failure of kidney function. Shaneyfelt was matched with Best in November, and had his transplant surgery on Dec. 20.

Stanford Childrens explained that the tradition of raising Donate Life flags at hospitals across the nation serves as a powerful reminder of the impact of donation and the lives saved through individuals’ generosity. 

“Thank you Stanford Children’s for this opportunity to be part of such a beautiful and meaningful day,” the Shaneyfelt family said in a statement. “We are strong believers that every person has a testimony, some easy, some hard, some long and some short. Jaxon’s story definitely had a curveball thrown at him but within those hard times, he was blessed with hope and encouragement throughout his journey from his wonderful medical team here at Stanford Children. 

“We are proud to be part of this amazing Stanford family who continue to give many children and families so much hope. We want to thank every single staff member, pre and post-coordinators, nurses, social workers, counselors, nephrology team and doctors, surgery team and surgeon Dr. [Thomas] Pham. Every single one of you [was] perfectly placed in Jaxon’s life to encourage him and continually assuring him that he will be taken care of with the best of care. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts!”

Best first learned of Shaneyfelt’s situation in early June after a mutual friend shared a post on her Instagram story.

“When I saw the post, I just kind of knew I could help,” Best told the Turlock Journal in December. “It may sound weird, but I just had this feeling. I'm O-negative, so I know I'm a universal donor. I've always done blood donations, and I can do plasma donations. I think in the back of my head, I always wanted to be able to help on a bigger level.”

“The kindness Sarah’s given us just makes me speechless,” Jaxon said. “Seeing the person who saved my life made me feel the same way. I want to say thank you again and again to my kidney buddy.”