Minnesota School Custodian Receives Kidney from Teacher at School

Patrick Mertens, 64, found out his kidneys were failing in 2018

Patrick Mertens, 64, found out his kidneys were failing in 2018.

A Minnesota school custodian got extremely lucky when it turned out one of the teachers at his school, Kimball Elementary School, was a match for the kidney he needed. Patrick Mertens, 64, found out his kidneys were failing in 2018, and doctors told his family if he didn’t get one in the next 5 years, he may die.

In an act of desperation, his daughter, Kayla, took to Facebook to post about the situation, and Erin Durga, 38, a third-grade teacher at the school, saw the post and reached out. After some tests, they found out she was a match.

“Who expects a teacher to give their kidney to a custodian?” Mertens’s wife, Lynda, told The Washington Post.

The families were no strangers to one another, as Merten’s wife ran a daycare facility all three of Durga’s children had attended. Durga and Mertens would also chat some days as he cleaned her classroom. Durga didn’t imagine that she’d one day give Mertens her kidney, however.

She told The Washington Post she’d been looking for a way to give back and had considered being a surrogate, but when she saw Kayla’s post, she knew that’s what she wanted to do.

“I felt in my heart, from the very beginning, that this was my thing,” said Durga “Once I decided that, yes, I’m going to donate to Pat, I felt really good about it, and I was at peace with it throughout the entire thing.”

In the summer after undergoing testing, they found out Durga was a match, the paper reported. Less than a month later in July, they underwent surgery for the transplant at University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis. All went well.

“I told Erin, when I first woke up out of surgery, it was nothing I’ve ever felt before,” Mertens said. “It was a new life.”

Now, Durga and Mertens are closer than ever. They both recovered quickly and were back in school by August. Durga now goes “out of her way” to find Mertens at school and they often check in with each other.

“She’s our miracle, our angel,” Lynda Mertens said. “We’ll forever be grateful for her.”