By Danielle Wallace
Published May 31, 2019
When a Colorado boy in foster care was bumped off the list to receive a kidney transplant due to a lack of stable housing, one teacher decided to step in to help his former student. The seventh-grader now expects to receive a new kidney within the next two weeks.
Finn Lanning teaches math at AXL Academy in Aurora, Colo., where he first met 13-year-old named Damien last August. Damien suffers from Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) which requires him to be on dialysis for 12 hours a day and eat a restrictive diet.
Damien told Denver's FOX 31 that he’s been in and out of the foster care system because of his costly medical needs. When he can’t find a proper home placement, he lives in the hospital where he’s not permitted to leave to attend school or remain on the waiting list for an organ transplant.
“When you’re living at the hospital you’re not able to be on the transplant list because folks that don’t have stable housing are considered high-risk for their organs to not work,” Lanning explained.
“When you’re living at the hospital you’re not able to be on the transplant list because folks that don’t have stable housing are considered high-risk for their organs to not work.”
Damien was staying with a family member at the beginning of the school year when his medical team approved him to be placed back on the kidney transplant list. When his caregiver returned him to county custody a few months later, Damien was removed from the list. His teacher continued to visit during that time.
“He spent, at that point, three or four months living in the hospital waiting for a placement,” Lanning said. “Over that time, I started out going in to give him his [school] work and just hang out with him a little bit, keep him caught up in the classroom.
“As I learned more about his story and what he was facing and what his needs were and why they weren’t being met, it just became really hard for me to look the other way,” the educator said.
Lanning finally decided to take in the 13-year-old in order to give him a better chance at receiving a new kidney. Damien’s name was placed at the top of the waiting list, and he now expects to receive a new kidney soon, FOX 31 reported.
Until Lanning can complete foster care certification over a six- to eight-month process, he said he will not receive financial support from the county to help care for Damien. The teacher-turned-foster parent said he now pays $200-$300 a week for food due to Damien’s strict diet.
Lanning started a crowdsourcing page to help fund household expenses in the interim. The two plan to continue living together even after Damien receives the transplant.
“We’re planning on just staying together. Hoping for adoption, probably,” Damien said.