This isn’t something you see every day—at least between a student and a teacher.
Jodi Schmidt, a third-grade teacher at Oakfield Elementary School in Wisconsin was on the road when the idea came to her.
She called her husband immediately.
“It truly just came to me after I did a lot of thinking and praying,” Schmidt said. “I told him, Rich, I want to give a student one of my kidneys.”
First-grader Natasha Fuller suffers from prune belly syndrome, a rare disease that causes urinary tract disease and a need for kidney dialysis. She’s been sick since birth and has been living with her grandparents Chris and Mark Burleton of Oakfield, Wisconsin. There, she receives specialized care at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, traveling with her grandmother three times a week to receive dialysis. Her parents and twin sister, Brookelynn, live in Oklahoma.
According to 12 News, Natasha has been waiting for a donor kidney for years, but her frequent infections never allowed her to stay on the transplant list.
Schmidt has undergone several medical tests and is indeed a match. She told Oakfield Elementary Principal Becky Doyle she would have to be off work for about eight weeks when it is time for the surgical transplant, reported 12 News.
“Jodi is extremely passionate, full of life and energy, and does everything 150 percent,” Doyle said. “She told me that she knows she is here to do more. She is always looking for ways to serve others.”
The two then decided to break the unexpected news to Natasha’s grandmother, Chris Burleton, in the school office.
“We gave her a gift box, and under the tissue paper was a card with the words: ‘It’s a match,'” Schmidt said.
Natasha’s grandmother did not expect what came, she thought she was brought into the office to talk about the child’s grades or her health.
“I just lost it,” Chris Burleton said. “You could never tell this little girl has three tubes in her, she doesn’t let it faze her. She is happy and sassy, and she just wants to lead a normal life, and do things like go swimming.”
According to 12 News, the 8-year-old doesn’t quite understand what has happened regarding the transplant, but she is well aware that her teacher is doing something great that will help her feel better.
On March 4, on Natasha’s way to dialysis, she asked her grandmother why God made her this way, referring to her prune belly syndrome. Prune Belly Syndrome Network says the cause of this disease is unknown and it occurs in only 1 out of every 30,000 to 40,000 births in the United States.
“I told her it was because she is a very special girl,” Burleton said.
According to Natasha’s grandmother, if she recovers from her latest infection by March 21, the date for the transplant could be very soon.
Jodi and Rich Schmidt have three children of their own: Raegen, 13; Richard, 4; and Jack, 2.
“I have had some really good days in my life, and that was probably one of the best,” Schmidt said of watching Burleton’s reaction when she learned her granddaughter would be getting a kidney. “I think that life takes us on very different paths, and I now have no doubt I was brought to Oakfield for a reason.”
A transplant team of nine at Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa is currently helping Schmidt through the process.