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Teacher donates life-saving kidney to 5-year-old student on dialysis

Teacher donates life-saving kidney to 5-year-old student on dialysis
Teacher donates life-saving kidney to 5-year-old student on dialysis. Courtesy of Desiree Kulage & Robin Mach.

A Missouri teacher is being praised as a hero for donating a life-saving kidney to one of her students.

From the moment she made her premature appearance at just 26-weeks, Kayleigh Kulage has battled through surgeries, dialysis, and countless doctor appointments.

The 5-year-old Missouri preschooler was diagnosed with partial blindness, a compromised immune system, and failing kidneys that have required 11 hours of dialysis treatment every day.

Kayleigh Kulage smiling.
Kayleigh smiling. Courtesy of Desiree Kulage & Robin Mach.

After Kayleigh successfully reached the minimum height and weight requirements for transplant, her parents Josh and Desiree Kulage became desperate to find their daughter a new kidney.

Kayleigh and her parents Josh and Desiree Kulage.
Kayleigh and her parents Josh and Desiree Kulage. Courtesy of Desiree Kulage & Robin Mach.

A New Hope

But desperation didn’t last long as an unexpected hero rose from her classroom to give Kayleigh the gift of more life – her teacher Robin Mach, an early childhood special education teacher, who had been teaching Kayleigh for 2 years.

“I just asked Desiree one day, because I knew Kayleigh really needed it, so I thought, ‘Why not try?'” the 46-year-old teacher explained.

She was a match, and since Mach is just under 5 feet tall, the match couldn’t have been any better for Kayleigh’s little body.

So, in February, Kayleigh and Mach underwent a successful six-hour kidney transplant at joint hospitals in St. Louis.

Robin's husband, Bob Mach, kisses her forehead before she donates a kidney.
Robin’s husband, Bob Mach, kisses her forehead before she donates a kidney. Courtesy of Desiree Kulage & Robin Mach.

Recovery

The 5-year-old’s mother said that Kayleigh has recovered well from the surgery and was “moving and grooving to go” as soon as she woke up.

Kayleigh’s health has also drastically improved following the surgery, according to her mom. She’s not tethered to her dialysis machine every night and the color is returning to her cheeks.

5-year-old Kayleigh Kulage received a life-saving kidney from teacher. Courtesy of Desiree Kulage & Robin Mach.

The family is now even planning their first family vacation.

“She’s an extremely resilient kid. She likes to point to her scar and show off her new kidney,” her mom said.

As for Mach, she doesn’t consider her actions heroic — just part of her job as a teacher.

“If a kid needs a backpack or shoes at school, I get them the backpack or shoes,” she says. “It’s kind of the same thing … Kayleigh needed a kidney, and whatever she needs, I’m going to give it to her.”


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