A kindergarten teacher in Mansfield, Ohio, is set to donate a kidney to a former student.
Wendy Killian, 39, has been approved as a donor for 8-year-old Nicole Miller who suffers from branchiootorenal syndrome, a genetic disorder "that typically disrupts the development of tissues in the neck and causes malformations of the ears and kidneys."
Nicole was born with only one kidney — and it was small, malformed and failed to grow with the child.
"She would always come in with such a smile," Killian, a kindergarten teacher at Mansfield Christian School, said of her former student. "She was just this bright light in the classroom."
Before Killian stepped forward as a potential donor, the Miller family struggled to find a match for Nicole.
"I emailed practically every person on my contact list," Brian Miller, Nicole’s father, told the Mansfield News Journal. "I also started a blog. We had a lot of responses."
Neither Miller nor his wife, Letitia, could be donors. Miller's blood pressure was too high. Letitia has the same syndrome as her daughter. While it hasn't affected her kidneys, it has caused some hearing loss.
In total, 18 people showed interest in donation. None of them were matches.
Killian discovered she met the donor criteria during a parent-teacher conference. Because her youngest son had received a much-needed blood platelet transfusion, she had been praying for an opportunity to give back, she said.
"I said if ever there was a chance for me to give back to another parent who was sitting in my seat, I would do it," she told the Mansfield News Journal. "I know what it’s like to be the parent who is not sure if their child’s going to make it."
"I was skeptical because we had gone through 18 people," Letitia told Fox8. "So I was like, 'Well, just think about it, pray about it, see how it goes.' We prayed."
Killian was a match.
"Words cannot express how thankful we are for Wendy and the sacrifice she is making for Nicole," Miller wrote on his blog, Stand In the Way.
"I'm nobody special. I'm just a wife, a mommy and a teacher, and it just goes to prove that the Lord works," Killian said. "For me to be able to step in and ease off that burden off of another parent who was sitting bedside of their critically ill child, that I could be the one to step forward."
The surgery will soon take place at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio.
"We were told that the transplant would most likely be scheduled one month out. If that is the case then we expect the transplant to occur sometime in April. If you feel led to please begin to pray with us for this procedure. It is certainly not without risk both to Nicole and Wendy!! But our faith remains in the Lord who has guided this entire process," Miller wrote.
Both Killian and Nicole will require about six weeks or recovery time, after which the little girl should be "better than ever."
"Yes, I'm going to be going through a major surgery, but you know, it's only going to be a few weeks of my life, but to this little girl, it is her whole life," Killian told Fox8.
Follow Nicole's story on Miller's blog.