In July of 2016, I saw a story on Facebook about a family desperately seeking a kidney donor for their daughter.
I looked closer and realized it was for Lyla, one of the students at the Kids Express Learning Center where I’m a 4K teacher. Even though she was a level younger and wasn’t in my class, I knew the story of this sweet and boisterous 4-year-old. All the teachers at my school did.
Lyla had been rushed to children’s hospital months earlier and was in a coma when they discovered she had a rare disease that caused her kidneys to fail. As a mother myself, I couldn’t imagine the heartache the family must’ve been going through. I wished I could do something to help.
Finding a Match
I can’t explain it, but when I saw that story on Facebook, something really hit me inside. I felt this strong urge to call and do the screening to see if I would be a match.
Now I’ve learned a lot about organ donations in the past year, and it’s not always easy to find the right match. Family members usually only have a 25-50% chance of being a match, and even if someone looks like a good fit at first, so many things can go wrong.
But I went ahead and completed the phone screening, blood draw, and then pretty soon they were asking me to come back for a full day of testing. I still remember the day I went in for that final screening because it was also the day I got my class list for the upcoming school year. Lyla’s name was on my list, and that’s when I just knew—this was meant to be.
Telling the Family
When I finally got word that I was approved as a match for Lyla, the hospital said I could be the one to tell the family. At this point, I’d only been her teacher for a few weeks, and I hadn’t had much interaction with them.
My co-teacher and I set up a fake meeting with the mom, and that’s when I slid a package across the table to her and told her to look inside. You can watch her reaction here in this video.
Now I know what it truly means to go viral because that video we took and the story has been featured all over the world, including the Ellen Show and the Today Show.
An Update After Surgery
Last month, we completed the surgery, and I’m happy to report that my kidney was immediately functioning in Lyla’s body. I’m home on rest, and she’s still at the hospital being monitored. But she’s got color back in her face, and she’s eating and drinking and acting like a kid again.
When people ask me how I could do this, I don’t really think about it. I saw this 4-year-old, suffering every single day, and it never even crossed my mind NOT to do it. I feel like we came into each other’s lives at the right time.
I’m also proud to be a great lesson about living organ donations. The students at our school know what Lyla is going through and why both she and I have been out of school. I’m glad we were able to use this opportunity to bring awareness to such an important subject.
As teachers, we know we don’t go into this profession to make a lot of money. We do it because we truly love what we do. We love making a difference in kids’ lives. I’ve been doing this for 13 years, and I love watching kids grow up and seeing what they become. Like other teachers do, I give pieces of myself to students every day and every year. I just gave a different kind of piece to Lyla, and I’m so glad that I did.