5-year-old Missouri girl receives kidney donated by preschool teacher

PACIFIC, Mo. — After more than four years, dialysis is no longer part of Kayleigh Kulage’s daily routine, and the 5-year-old Missouri girl has her preschool teacher to thank.

Robin Mach began teaching Kayleigh more than two years ago, and last month the early childhood special education teacher donated a kidney to her homebound student, “Good Morning America” reported.

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Born prematurely at only 26 weeks, Desiree Kulage told KTVI that her daughter spent nearly 160 days in the neonatal intensive care unit and has struggled since with partial blindness, a compromised immune system and failing kidneys that have required 11 hours of peritoneal dialysis each night.

“We were telling Kayleigh because we were giving her a bath that you won’t have your catheter anymore, you won’t have to do dialysis anymore. A whole new chapter,” Josh Kulage, Kayleigh’s father, told the TV station prior to the February transplant.

Desiree Kulage told GMA that Kayleigh, who weighs only 26 pounds and stands two inches shy of three feet, was not eligible for the procedure until she met certain height and weight milestones in October. That’s when Mach said she realized she might be able to help.

“I wanted (Kayleigh) to have a normal life and go to school, and this is how we can help her get there,” Mach told KTVI before the transplant.

The six-hour surgery, which took place Feb. 3 at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, was a complete success and has provided Kayleigh with a wide-range of “firsts” she is now free to experience, KSL reported.

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Desiree Kulage told the TV station that she cannot wait for her daughter to finally experience a dip in the ocean, a splash in a swimming pool and even an everyday bath that before now could be difficult and painful because of the catheter she no longer needs because of Mach’s gift.

“(Mach) acts like she just took (Kayleigh) to the spa and painted her toes. She acts like it’s nothing,” Kulage told GMA of Mach. “I just don’t know how to thank somebody like her. All I keep on saying is, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.’”

More than 100,000 people are currently on the waiting list for an organ donation in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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