Math teacher adopts student, 13, so he can get on the kidney transplant list

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When math teacher Finn Lanning (left) heard that Damien (right), a bright seventh-grader in his class for one semester, would be leaving school because of factors out of his control, he offered to step in


A math teacher has adopted one of his students so he could get a kidney transplant. 

Damien, 13, has been in and out of foster care all his life, and has battled kidney failure since he was eight years old. 

But his care has proved too much for many of his carers, and each time he rotates out of a home, he loses his spot on the waiting list for a kidney, because transplant patients are required to have a stable home.

With no hope of a kidney coming, and his condition so severe, Damien would have to move to live in the hospital for full-time dialysis as he waited for something else. 

When his math teacher, Finn Lanning, heard that Damien, a bright boy he’d barely got to know, would be leaving school because of factors out of his control, he offered to step in. 

Now, he has adopted Damien, who has moved into his place, and Damien is at the top of the waiting list for a kidney – as the community tries to rally together with a GoFundMe to help Lanning afford a new teenage son.

When math teacher Finn Lanning (left) heard that Damien (right), a bright seventh-grader in his class for one semester, would be leaving school because of factors out of his control, he offered to step in

Now Damien is back on the transplant list and settling into life with Finn

Now Damien is back on the transplant list and settling into life with Finn

‘Damien has learned to be very independent and tends to keep his difficulties to himself, but he told me about his circumstances a few days before returning to the hospital,’ Lanning wrote in the GoFundMe. 

‘Unable to keep his challenges off my heart and mind, I began the personal journey of considering taking on his care.’

Damien’s life has been tough. 

In September, things were looking up: he was living with a relative in Aurora, Colorado, and was able to start classes at AXL Academy, where he joined Finn Lanning’s math class. 

Damien was quiet but very bright and diligent.

So Lanning was stunned when this impressive new student came to him at the end of the semester to say he wouldn’t be coming back.

He explained that the relative he was living with had passed him back to county care, which automatically bumped him off the list for a transplant.   

‘A transplant is a very complex process, there’s a lot of medications necessary to maintain a healthy transplant so patients are required to have a support system,’ Dr. Anthony Watkins, abdominal transplant surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and assistant professor of surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine, told DailyMail.com. 

‘They need a person who can help bringing them into visits.’

What’s more, the person they designate needs to commit to being around long-term, since a transplant is a long-term form of treatment. 

It’s a policy that is regarded as even more pressing for children. 

‘They’re young, they don’t fully grasp the importance of medication and health, so you really need someone,’ Dr Watkins, who was not involved in Damien’s care, explained. 

According to Fanning’s GoFundMe post, Damien has had people in his life, but none that would or could sustain his care, which involves a very restricted diet, daily dialysis and medications. 

Finding another home isn’t easy; his carer needs to be trained. 

So, as a temporary solution, he would need to move to live in the hospital for 12 hours a day of dialysis. 

But, Dr Watkins explains: ‘Dialysis is a great modality for providing temporary replacement for kidney function. But people on dialysis do have a decreased survival and quality of life.’

‘It’s not the gold standard,’ he added. 

In September, things were looking up: he was living with a relative in Aurora, Colorado, and was able to start classes at AXL Academy, where he joined Finn Lanning's math class. Damien was quiet but very bright and diligent

In September, things were looking up: he was living with a relative in Aurora, Colorado, and was able to start classes at AXL Academy, where he joined Finn Lanning’s math class. Damien was quiet but very bright and diligent

In December, Lanning began training in how to care for a child with severe kidney failure who requires hours on end on a dialysis machine at home, and a severely restricted diet

In December, Lanning began training in how to care for a child with severe kidney failure who requires hours on end on a dialysis machine at home, and a severely restricted diet

Lanning nominated himself to be Damien’s long-term support system. 

In December, he began training in how to care for a child with severe kidney failure who requires hours on end on a dialysis machine at home, and a severely restricted diet. 

By March, they were through. 

Damien and Lanning are now three months into their life together, cooking a lot, and getting excited about Damien’s life once he has a new kidney. 

‘I want a hot and spicy chicken sandwich from McDonald’s with extra mayonnaise,’ Damien told CNN

For now, groceries are more expensive, partly due to the nature of Damien’s diet, coming to about $200 a week, Lanning told CNN.

  • To donate to Damien and Lanning, visit their GoFundMe 



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