PACIFIC, Mo. – A young girl from Pacific, Missouri just received a new kidney that she’s needed since birth. Her donor? Her pre-kindergarten teacher.
Kayleigh Kulage is a beautiful little girl born premature at just 26 weeks.
“She was 15.2 ounces and 11.25 inches when she was born,” said Desiree, Kayleigh’s mother. “She was in the NICU for 158 days.”
Kayleigh is a fighter and now she’s an incredible 5-year-old.
“If she didn’t have like these tubes on her or anything you wouldn’t really know anything’s wrong with her,” Desiree said. “She never cries. She never complains about pain. She’s a happy kid. I couldn’t have been any luckier to have her.”
Every night, Kayleigh’s parents set up peritoneal dialysis. But no more. Her teacher is giving her the ultimate gift.
“We were telling Kayleigh because we were giving her a bath that you won’t have your catheter anymore, you won’t have to do dialysis anymore. A whole new chapter,” said Josh Kulage, Kayleigh’s father.
Robin Mach met Kayleigh in 2019 and her reason for donating is simple.
“She was a student at our school. And then she had to receive some home services so I got to do that. So, I’ve been working with Kayleigh for about a year and a half,” Robin said. “She needed it. I wanted her to have a normal life and go to school. And this is how we can help her get there.”
Kayleigh’s surgery was a success and took place at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis. Her kidney is working great, but the first 24 hours were incredibly scary and painful for Kayleigh and her family.
“She’s come out of it like a trooper. I had the PICU doctor yesterday say that he can’t believe she just had major surgery less than a week ago. And that she’s probably the happiest child in the hospital,” said Desiree.
Miss Robin keeps in touch every day as she recovers.
“She’s incredible. She was offering to do our laundry. And take me back and forth. And I’m like, ‘you just had major surgery. You need to go home and rest,” said Desiree. “I don’t know how to thank her. So, all I keep on saying is thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
As for Kayleigh, this kidney promises a normal childhood.
“She has never had a bath, like a normal bath. She’ll be able to swim, maybe experience the ocean. So, she’s going to be able to experience stuff she’s never been able to experience,” Desiree said.