Selfless acts have been the focus of the media and television shows for years as people want to share their joy with others around the world. Faith in humanity restored. Can people really be so kind to put complete strangers before themselves? However, one teacher was determined to take this one step further. Over the years she has grown so close to her class of children, and now it was time for Nancy Bleuer to teach her students the real importance of sharing. Teaching is more than giving an education; it’s building the foundations for the next generation to build upon.
Giving anyone a gift can fill us with joy. Their faces and the feeling of spreading happiness can be enough to make us want to spread the joy even further. It could be for a birthday, a holiday, or just a random act of kindness; do we need an excuse to be generous? This was taken one step further when a teacher gave her student the best gift that anyone could ask for. As well as providing the youngster with an education, this teacher would stop at nothing to ensure her student had the gift of a family. Only, no one ever expected how far she would go to make his dreams come true…
Changing the world
In Mason City, Iowa lies a preschool like no other. At the Washington Charlie Brown Preschool, Nancy Bleuer, or Miss Nancy as she is better known to her class, works as a 54-year-old teacher. Nancy has been teaching for years, and now looks after a group of children from 3 years old all the way up to 5. This teacher is often described as one of the kindest people that the parents know as she is willing to do anything to help her students. This is precisely what most people look or when finding the right teacher for their children, but it was one student in particular that grabbed Miss Nancy’s attention.
Spotting the difference
As Nancy works with her children five days a week for a huge portion of the year, it doesn’t take long to pick up on their personalities and usual habits – even if she has many students to look after. Camden was just four years old in 2017 when he arrived at preschool looking a little off color. Looking into his eyes, Nancy could see the sadness. What could be causing this youngster so much pain? It was time to dig deeper.
Life changing news
It was fall 2016 – the time that everything was about to change for the Petersen household. Father of the house, Darreld, was rushed to the emergency room with severe health complications. What could be causing all the distress? After many tests, Darreld heard the news. He was suffering from renal kidney failure. To make matters worse, Darreld learned that a hemoglobin count showed one of his kidneys was only functioning at 20% which meant he was to start dialysis treatment immediately. If not, things could quickly get even worse.
Although the news was an incredible shock to Darreld and his family, the Petersens knew this day was inevitable. Darreld had first been diagnosed with complications in his kidney back in 2010. The 26-year-old heard the news he was suffering from IgA nephropathy, better known as Berger’s disease. This illness means an antibody in Darreld’s body builds up in his kidney which causes swelling and leads to tissue damage. As time goes on, the condition will only grow worse.
There is no known cure for Berger’s disease, although certain medications can help to slow down the process. However, the illness can lead to complete kidney failure, which is what was happening to now 34-year-old Darreld. The father started his immediate course of dialysis, but it wouldn’t be an easy route to undertake. Darreld’s treatment meant he had to visit the hospital three days a week for four-hour sessions where his blood would be cleansed by a machine. Without the treatment Darreld wouldn’t survive.
More bad news
Even though Darreld was now receiving the life-saving treatment he needed, there was even more bad news for the family. The Petersens learned that Darreld had been placed on a transplant list. Without a new kidney, a life of dialysis was the only way that he would survive. Sadly, the waiting list for a kidney has over 100,000 names and people usually wait over three and a half years for their organ. It could be years before Darreld received a transplant – if he even survived that long.
Everyone around Darreld came together to offer the support and encouragement they could. Some of his friends and relatives even offered up their kidneys to try and speed up the process. Sadly, no one was a match. It looked as though hope was running out for Darreld and his family. At just four years old, Camden knew the implications his father’s condition was having on his health. For weeks, young Camden tried to hold it all together. However, it all became too much. While still in class, Miss Nancy noticed one of her students struggling.
Learning the truth
Nancy was shocked to hear the news that young Camden had to share. To the teacher, the outcome sounded “grave”. How could she sit back and watch this four-year-old face the worry of growing up without a father? Surely there must be something she could do? It was then that the light bulb switched on. There was something that could be done. Nancy set about making a few phone calls as she was about to donate her kidney.
Darreld had been on the kidney waiting list for weeks when he finally got the news he had been waiting for: there was a match waiting for him! Tragically, the surgery fell through, and Darreld was back to square one. Would his family be able to cope with any more false promises? After all, even siblings only have a 25% chance of being a full match, so what were the odds that a complete stranger would be suitable? It was no time for negativity; Darreld had to think of his family.
Doing the research
Before someone can have a kidney operation, there need to be several blood tests to ensure the organ will be compatible. Blood tests reveal whether the organ matches the person’s antigens and blood type. However, this doesn’t always mean the surgery will be a success. 97% of live donor kidneys will be fully accepted into the new body, but only 50 to 60% of deceased donations are successful. For Darreld, he would take anything he could to combat his illness.
Signing the dotted line
It wasn’t long before Nancy starting researching all the options for becoming a live donor. Although she knew the risks, the teacher knew she couldn’t sit back to watch Darreld’s health deteriorate. As soon as the father came into class to collect Camden, she offered up her organ in a bid to save someone’s life. However, Darreld wasn’t sure about the offer. What if she wasn’t a match – how would the family cope with more upset? Miss Nancy was determined to help.
Getting the news
January 2017 rolled around. It looked as though everyone’s lives were about to change forever. Could Nancy be a match? The results were in, and it seemed as though Camden would be growing up with a father; Nancy and Darreld were a match! As soon as Darreld arrived for his son, Nancy handed over a weary-eyed Camden who had just woken up from a nap as well as the news her kidney would be suitable. Although Darreld didn’t understand at first, he hugged Nancy as soon as the news sunk in.
Long road ahead
Although Nancy had been told she was a match for Darreld, that didn’t mean they could be rushed into surgery the same day. In fact, the pair of them were still in for a long journey. While Darreld continued to have his dialysis, Nancy started the various tests she needed to make sure she was in full health. As well as urinalysis tests, Nancy also had additional blood examinations as well as checks to determine the health of her heart. To top it off, the teacher also had extensive counseling sessions to ensure she was mentally prepared for the operation.
It may sound strange to some, but Nancy admits that donating an organ to save a life has been something that’s been on her bucket list for years. According to the teacher, she had watched a co-worker donate a kidney to someone they knew years before. Ever since, she has wanted to replicate the generosity. Although Nancy admits she didn’t think about donating an organ every day, she knew that now the opportunity had presented itself Nancy should live up to the promise she made to herself.
The big day
Nancy was given the all clear in May, and the pair were scheduled in for surgery just one month later. June 1 rolled around, and Nancy and Darreld headed to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for their operations. Daniel Katz, Zoe Stewart Lewis, and Alan Reed were just some of the surgeons working on the pair. Although over 30,000 organ transplants are performed in the US every year, every patient is different. Plus, there are still the same number of risks each time.
The other side
Even though both Nancy and Darreld knew the risks going into the surgery, they both came out the other side; the operation had been a complete success! Amazingly, both patients were cleared to go home from the hospital just one week after the surgery. Now it was just a case of resting to make sure that both of them recovered without any complications. Although Nancy was now a kidney down, she and Darreld were expected to be recovered in six weeks.
To thank Nancy for her incredible generosity, Darreld and the other teachers at the school all arrived at her classroom with a huge bunch of flowers. They weren’t the only thanks offered. Nancy has personally thanked the transplant team of Iowa who helped the pair through the entire process as well as providing plenty of aftercare, while Darreld added his respect to the dialysis team working at the Fresenius Kidney Care for all their hard work and dedication.
Father’s Day present
On Sunday, June 18, 2017, Darreld was treated to the best Father’s Day he could have asked for – one where he was finally illness free after so many years of health issues. Darreld admitted he gave complete control to Camden for the day, who decided the pair should visit the park and the movies to celebrate. Darreld admits the day was more than just celebrating parenthood; it was to commemorate the lives of everyone that supported Camden and allowed him to continue being a father.
One of the doctors working on the operations, surgeon Zoe Stewart Lewis, has spoken about how she understood Nancy’s want to help Darreld. Zoe is a mother to two preschool children and knows the bond they often form with their teachers. As for Darreld, he now admits that Nancy will forever be a part of their lives. The father has reported he can’t wait to have Nancy by his side as they one day watch Camden graduate, knowing it was all down to Nancy’s selfless act.