WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- Lakota West basketball player Jasmine Ballew has experienced a profound impact on her life since this past fall.
While the senior wing has helped the Firebirds (17-1) to a No. 24 national ranking this winter, Ballew has carried the inspiring words and actions of her mother and grandmother as a guide for an even greater perspective.
When Lori Ballew, Jasmine’s mother, donated a kidney to Lori’s mother, Jan Houseton, Sept. 21 at Christ Hospital, it reinforced Jasmine’s desire to help her family and gave her a plan to pursue the nursing field in college.
“I’ve seen a big change in her,” Houseton said. “She’s always been a compassionate young lady. She goes over and beyond to tell me she loves me and ask, ‘anything you want me to do, Granny?’”
Jan had been on dialysis for a year-and-a-half. In June 2015, Lori was found to be a donor match for a kidney transplant.
“I felt like she gave me life and I wanted to be able to help her prolong her life because she is the rock of our life,” Lori said.
Jan has led by example to her family in several ways over the years. Lori’s five siblings have a strong bond and helped Jan with her health.
In the same way, Jan is always looking to help others in her family and the community. She is active in a foundation called HOPE (Helping Other People Endure) that she founded since 2002. There she leads efforts to cook and pass out meals, give inspirational letters and offer prayers to those in need around the Lockland community.
“If nothing else it’s just to let them know that God loves them and that He cares about them and that there is hope for them,” Lori said of her mother’s objective.
This past September, Jan was the recipient of a loving daughter who wanted to give a life-giving donation.
When mother and daughter were found to be a match in 2015, tears welled in Jan and Lori’s eyes when daughter told mother, ‘I will give you a kidney.’”
Lori, who works for the United States Postal Service, volunteered without hesitation. She decided to forego a family vacation last summer, among other sacrifices.
“She kind of put her life on hold for me,” Jan said last week, just a few days after she had a knee replacement.
There were other health hurdles along the way during and testing was a grueling process at times. Lori wondered if the transplant would ever happen.
The transplant turned out to be a success.
“It was a true blessing,” Lori said. “I was glad that I was able to be a part of it. I would do anything for my mother. She has been there for us. It was not a question in my mind of doing it.”
The selfless act made a strong impression on 17-year-old Jasmine, who followed the progress of her mother and grandmother on the monitor in the hospital waiting room. She planned to attend school Sept. 21 but was worried butterflies in her stomach about the surgery would get the best of her.
The Lakota West girls’ basketball team sent numerous text messages asking for updates during the hours she waited for the surgeries to be completed. Jasmine was grateful for the team’s support and didn’t feel like she missed out on basketball workouts.
“I think it just showed who they are deep down inside,” Jasmine said of her teammates and coaches. “It really helped me a lot.”
Lakota West coach Andy Fishman happily greeted Lori some time later after the surgery. He told her she was a great source of pride for Jasmine and the team.
“What an amazing family this is,” Fishman said. “It really puts things in perspective when you are a coach and you have a student-athlete going through this stuff.”
The experience at Christ Hospital also influenced Jasmine’s decision to study nursing and eventually become a nurse practitioner.
“Just seeing how nurses can actually interact with patients and stuff -- I think that will make my day even more because I already like making people smile,” Jasmine said.
Lori, her husband, Ron and Jasmine’s siblings -- Jaymon, Jared and former Princeton basketball player Jada -- drew closer as a family. Jasmine’s siblings live away from home, so she took the role as Lori’s nurse.
The experience was a blessing for everyone involved and another reminder of what is truly important.
“Life is precious and you have to take every day and value it,” Lori said. “Every day is a precious day for us.”