Jake’s new perspective

Chris Aiken, Pioneer Staff Writer 
Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Jake Stene poses with an autographed football that he received from members of the Carroll College football team on Senior Night, February 14, 2014. Brandon Arlian, a member of the Carroll College football team, helped orchestrate the signing (CHRIS AIKEN / Big Timber Pioneer).


No one should have been there.

It was the worst storm of the winter, and “no one should have been on the roads,” recalls Wendy Stene.  

But people were on the roads, and despite snow and ice, more than six hundred of them came to the charity auction at the American Legion. Donated items poured in throughout the day: guns, tire rims, oil changes, dart boards, jewelry – “everything thing you can think of”  –  and auctioneer, Jeremy Young, shouted bids until nearly midnight, by which time his voice was so hoarse he could hardly speak. The event raised an astounding amount of money – roughly $60,000. 

Somewhere in the corner of the Legion banquet room, the beneficiary, Wendy’s 11-year-old son, Jake, was fast asleep. It was February 2014, and he would be sleeping a lot in the forthcoming months. 


A little more than a year before the benefit, Jake was diagnosed with Henoch-Schonlein Purpura (HSP), an autoimmune disease that causes the body to target its own capillaries. Occurring most often in children aged 2 to 11, HSP  is characterized by skin rashes, swelling, abdominal pain and, occasionally, kidney failure. Like most kids diagnosed with HSP, Jake was told that his symptoms would probably diminish within two or three months, and indeed by May he was feeling considerably better. 

Summer passed and the bizarre illness began to fade from the Stenes’ family radar. Then, in August, Jake relapsed. From that point, “things moved fast,” his brother Cody, now a junior at Sweet Grass County High School, recalls. In January 2014, Jake went to Seattle Children’s Hospital, where nephrologist Dr. Joseph Flynn informed the family that Jake would need a kidney transplant. 

The Stenes, of course, were crestfallen. As Wendy told Pioneer reporter Lindsey Ellis at the time, the hardest part for Jake was being told he could no longer play football. At 11, he had just become eligible for the Little Guy league. The only person more disappointed was his brother Cody, with whom Jake shares a bedroom decked in U of M Grizzlies logos.

“That was the hardest part for me,” Cody recalls. “We we’re really looking forward to playing together through high school.”.  

Initially, Jake and his parents, Wendy and Ode, were told that he’d be able to keep one of his kidneys – a pyrrhic victory for parents trying to figure out whose kidney would be excised for the transplant surgery – but even that decision was soon overturned. Both kidneys were operating below 20 percent of normal capacity and getting worse. 

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