MILWAUKEE (AP) — An 8-year-old Wisconsin girl received a life-changing gift Tuesday from a special donor: a teacher at her school.
Natasha Fuller went into surgery along with Jodi Schmidt, the Oakfield Elementary teacher who donated a kidney to the first-grader.
"The transplant went great. Both Jodi and Natasha are recovering and doing well," transplant surgeon Mike Zimmerman said in a statement.
The girl's smile and attitude, in spite of her chronic kidney disease, had inspired Schmidt to get tested months ago for a possible donation. Schmidt said Natasha has been an inspiration at school because her illness and frequent travel for dialysis haven't dampened her upbeat spirit and talkative nature.
"She's pretty sociable, so she catches everyone she can. It takes a long time for her to get from Point A to Point B," Schmidt said. "Many people after this started didn't know she was sick at all. She's happy and looks healthy."
Natasha was born with prune belly syndrome, which has required kidney dialysis in recent years. She lives with her grandparents in Oakfield so she can get the specialized treatment she needs at Children's Hospital in metro Milwaukee, about 70 miles away. Her parents and siblings, including her twin Brookelynn, live in Oklahoma.
Natasha's grandmother, Chris Burleton of Oakfield, said that because of the tubes attached to her granddaughter's body, Natasha has been unable to do many things most children might take for granted, such as swimming or riding a roller coaster, for fear they would disrupt her attachments.
Schmidt decided to get tested as a possible match after talking over the risks with her family. A national registry site directed her to Froedtert Hospital, which is near Children's Hospital. After a long day of testing and meeting with at least a dozen health care professionals, Schmidt was told by a transplant coordinator that she was a match for Natasha.
"It was the best day ever. I was on the phone and I think I screamed in her ear," Schmidt said.
Schmidt and Oakfield Elementary's principal, Becky Doyle, came up with a plan to surprise Natasha's grandmother with the news about her test results. Schmidt gave Burleton a gift box when she stopped by the school. Burleton opened it and broke down in tears. Inside the box she found a note that read, "It's a match."
Schmidt said in an earlier interview that her choice to donate a kidney was a decision she's never been more confident of in her life.