Gift of life:

Mighty 70th comes together in time of need

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Courtesy photo Amy Lynn Samulenas, wife of Tech. Sgt. Christopher Samulenas, 29th Intelligence Squadron, sits next to Tech. Sgt. Matthew Staggs, 691st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Stagg donated a life-saving kidney to Samulenas.

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. — Every once in a while, the stars align and things just work out. After battling kidney disease since age 10, Amy Lynn Samulenas was told she needed a transplant to save her life.

After being on several donor registries and not finding a match within her immediate family, the Samulenas’ expanded their search to the next best thing – her Air Force family.

Amy is an Air Force spouse, married to Tech. Sgt. Christopher Samulenas, 29th Intelligence Squadron. In early February 2019, the Samulenas family began spreading the word asking anyone willing to be a potential donor to reach out to a local hospital.

Miraculously, a donor was found.

“This is something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Tech. Sgt. Matthew Staggs, 691st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group. “I first heard about the situation through a public affairs newsletter with a link to an article about Amy. I was thrilled and humbled by the opportunity to donate an organ that would help save someone’s life.”

Staggs is a voluntary living donor and the epitome of what the Air Force core value of service before self encompasses. After finding themselves in what could only be described as a horrible waiting game, the Samulenas will finally be able to move on with their lives, thanks to the incredible sacrifice of a true wingman.

“I found out on a Monday that I needed to check into the hospital by Wednesday, so those two days were a rush to get everything sorted in my office, with my leadership and at home before then,” Staggs said. “Luckily, we have an amazing family at the 691st ISRG and my wonderful, supportive wife, Becca, stepped up and was amazing through all of this!”

The stage was set and on March 14, Staggs successfully completed the transplant, and is now in the recovery stage.

“I will admit it has slowed me down quite a bit,” Staggs said. “I am normally a very active person between work, the gym, the horse rescue I volunteer at, activism in the LGBTQI+ community and spending time with my wife. Now, I can barely walk a loop around the mall but I am optimistic and ready to keep going forward.”

Through it all, Staggs said he’s been left with a new perspective and unforeseen life-long friend; referring to Amy as a sister he is just now meeting.

“Once in a while (pretty often, actually) I am humbled by an act of incredible selflessness within our wing,” said Col. Matteo Martemucci, 70th ISRW commander. “Staggs gave a wingman’s family the gift of life, and the rest of us a refreshed appreciation for what it means to take care of our family in the Mighty 70th ISR Wing. We are extremely proud of Matt and hope for the best for all involved going forward.”

Staggs asks anyone interested in possibly donating to reach out to the Walter Reed transplant office or their local transplant organization. For more information, call 202-390-2474 or email usn.bethesda.nsabethesdamd.nsab-access@mail.mil.