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Two Teachers Save Eight Lives by Donating Kidneys

EDUCATION-SCHOOL
PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images

Two separate living kidney donation chains saved eight lives, all because two Florida teachers decided to make a difference.

When polycystic kidney disease robbed 56-year-old Neil Emmott of all but 20 percent of his kidney function, he joined more than 95,000 other people on a list that can easily take five years to see even the possibility of a donor. It is a situation not conducive to hope, but the answer to Emmott’s prayers—and those of his family—was standing in his daughter’s classroom.

Emmott’s wife Lisa works at Bethany Christian School in Fort Lauderdale, where their daughter Mackenzie attends. She decided to share her family’s struggle with Allison Malouf, Mackenzie’s first grade teacher. What followed was a series of events that saved eight different lives across the country, all motivated by nothing more than the compassion of a teacher for her student’s family.

Malouf immediately pursued the possibility of donating a kidney to Emmott, but both she and her brother were unable. She also told her friend and fellow teacher, Britani Atkinson. What she did not know was that Atkinson would also submit herself for donation in secret, to keep the family from being disappointed in case she was not a match.

Atkinson was the right blood type, but the size of her kidney was too different from Emmott’s. But rather than abandon the idea, both Malouf and Atkinson instead registered on a living donors list for those who want to donate organs to someone but are incompatible with the person in need.

The list finds matches for donor/patient groups, then “chains” them together so that all receive compatible organs. Because of Malouf and Atkinson, two separate kidney donation chains saved eight lives—and Emmott’s was one of them.

“When you are a teacher, you feel like a part of these children’s lives,” Malouf told Today. “Their daughter was like a child of my own. I didn’t want to see her without a dad. … God gives you two kidneys, but you only need one.”

“I knew how desperate I would be if I found myself in their situation, and the solution seemed so easy,” said Atkinson. “I had two kidneys and I only needed one. If I could give one to Neil to keep their family whole, why would I not?”

According to data from the United Network for Organ Sharing, someone is added to the national organ transplant waiting list every ten minutes. Every day, approximately 20 people die waiting. Even one person can make a critical difference in the lives of countless others—and these two Florida teachers are living proof.

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