Hanscom student intern saves mother's life

  • Published
  • By Warren P. Russo
  • Global Command and Control System-Air Force acquisition manager
One of the youngest professionals at Hanscom Air Force Base may be small of stature, but there's no denying the size of her spirit. Ashlee Masone, a lively 21-year old student intern from Leominster, Mass., recently saved her mother's life by donating one of her precious kidneys.

Ms. Masone's mother, Julie, who had lost her own kidneys to juvenile polycystic kidney disease, had received a previous transplant from an older sister at the age of nine. After 35 years, however, the disease had taken its toll on that donated kidney. As a result, Julie was back on dialysis just before last Christmas, clinging to life in the hope of receiving another kidney transplant.

Fortunately for Julie, her daughter proved not only a perfect match, but a willing donor.

"I couldn't bear to see her hooked up to those dialysis machines," said Ms. Masone, "and I just knew that I had to give her one of my kidneys."

Working with the transplant service at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Mass., Ms. Masone underwent a battery of tests before surgery, including blood work, CAT scans and tissue match analysis, and all of the results were positive.

On the day of the four-hour procedure, both women were wheeled into adjoining operating rooms, making it a short trip for her left kidney from one surgical team to another. After spending five days in neighboring recovery rooms, mother and daughter left the hospital with good prospects for the future.

Julie will continue her lifelong, twice-daily regimen of anti-rejection drugs, as well as weekly blood tests to monitor the status of her disease and the performance of her new kidney.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, polycystic kidney disease is an incurable genetic disorder passed down through families. If one parent carries the gene for the disease, the children have a 50 percent chance of developing the illness and symptoms may not appear until middle age.

Fortunately, Ms. Masone continues to be in perfect health, and her only post-operative restriction is to not do any heavy lifting for a while to avoid a hernia. Consequently, she has suspended her competitive cheerleading activities with the East Elites, which have taken her to national competitions across the country, from Maryland and Florida to Texas and California.

A member of the Hanscom Student Career Experience Program (SCEP), Ms. Masone works 20 hours a week and full-time during the summer with the C2ISR Directorate in the Intelligence and Special Programs Division's contracting group, dealing with contract modifications and delivery orders, while pursuing her Level 1 certification in contracting.

"I'm pretty lucky to be in this program, and I have a hard-slotted job waiting for me after graduation," said Ms. Masone. "Many of my friends are just working in retail because there aren't any good jobs available."

Next December, Ms. Masone will graduate from Fitchburg State University, where she maintains a 3.7 GPA as a business management major. She plans to continue the family tradition by working at Hanscom, albeit on a full-time basis. Her dad, Joe Masone, is also one of Hanscom's government civilians, currently working as a program manager at the MITRE facility.

"I'm learning the basics of contracting here on the job, so that when I graduate from college, I'll have the experience required to come in as a full-time employee," she said.

In the meantime, she is taking a crash course in Italian to prepare for a month-long trip to Italy in May, where she will continue her study of the Italian language at the University of Verona, while also taking a course called Life in the Roman City.

Thanks to Ms. Masone, there's life in Leominster, too.