Erin Durga has known Pat Mertens for years. Pat is the custodian at an elementary school in Minnesota, and every day, he comes into Erin’s third-grade classroom to help her clean up. Over the years, the two of them have become friends, so it didn’t take long for Erin and her fellow educators to realize something wasn’t right with Pat.
Three days a week, he was leaving early. They weren’t sure why until they found out he was experiencing kidney failure. They quickly set up fundraisers to help him pay for his medical care, but Erin wanted to go even further! When she heard he needed a new kidney, she rushed to find out if she could be his donor.
“Pat is a wonderful person and I can’t imagine him not being around,” she told the Star Tribune.
Unfortunately, the situation was dire. Even though he had been battling kidney disease for 17 years, he was in level 5 kidney failure by the time Erin stepped in to help.
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The teacher had to go through an application process to even be considered as a donor. Once she passed that, she needed to find out if she was a match. She submitted a DNA test, had blood drawn, got a urinalysis done, and talked to a lot of doctors. When she was finally approved, she shared the lifesaving news with Pat by surprising him at home with a shirt that said “Donor.”
They underwent the surgery over the summer and relied on each other to keep their spirits up and their anxiety down during the process. Thankfully, everything went perfectly, so there was no need for them to worry!
“Pat and I have returned to our lives and our school. We are both grateful to say that recovery has gone very well,” Erin wrote in a recent update. “Pat is able to travel with his lovely wife, something he was unable to do while on dialysis. For me, I am back to 100 percent.”
These days, Pat describes Erin as “just a wonderful woman,” and her kindness is by no means lost on him. “It’s quite the honor that someone would give you their kidney,” he said. “You will appreciate them for the rest of your life.”
As for Erin, she doesn’t think much of her donation. It was simply something she felt like she needed to do. “I’m no superhero or angel,” she explained. “I’m just a person who did the right thing.”
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