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Cherokee County educator donates kidney to student she never met

'This feels like one tiny little thing I can do in 2020 to make it a little bit better,' Joy said.

CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. — A Cherokee County educator is making a huge difference in the life of a student she had never met outside the classroom.

11Alive's Kaitlyn Ross reports the school system's supervisor of digital learning is donating a kidney to a 9th grader in the district this Friday. 

Joy Silk says she's excited for the surgery on Friday. 

She matched with 14-year-old Maggie four months ago, after finding out about the 9th grader's rare genetic condition. The ailment is called cystinosis and it attacks her organs, including her kidneys. 

When Joy heard how serious it was, she knew she wanted to help. 

Joy and Maggie met for the first time on Sunday. 

"She was cute, she would say, I should be close to Joy. I should stand next to her," Joy said. 

She brought her own kids to meet Maggie. 

Joy wanted them to understand why she wanted to donate her kidney to a 14-year-old she had never met. 

"I want Maggie to have what my kids have," Joy said. "I want her to wake up and feel great. I want her to know what it's like to feel normal. I want her parents to know she can have a healthy life." 

Joy didn't know Maggie before Sunday, but she knew Maggie's aunt through the Cherokee County School District

When Maggie's aunt told Joy about Maggie and her sister's degenerative kidney condition, she felt called to help. 

"I stood there thinking, I don't have any idea what life is like for them," Joy said. "I have two healthy kids, I live this blessed life. And the reality is, this disease is a daily disease for them."

Maggie's mother had donated her kidney to her older sister, who shares the same condition, years earlier. 

No one else in their family had the same blood type, so they weren't eligible to donate. 

"That's my blood type, when it's time for her to get a transplant, let me know, I'll put my name in," Joy said. 

Joy wasn't scared of the process because her own mother had donated a kidney to a stranger last year after seeing a story on the news. 

Joy says the process was painless. 

Maggie's family thought they had time to figure it out, but this spring, her condition worsened rapidly. 

"Maggie got sick, and she got sicker sooner than they thought," said Joy. 

Joy got tested right away and found she was the perfect match for Maggie. 

Emory Healthcare and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta moved up the surgery to this Friday because Maggie needs the transplant desperately. 

"This is not going to cure her disease. It won't last her a lifetime. But ultimately if it gives her a couple of years of feeling normal, and her family thinking she can do some normal things kids do," she said. "That would be amazing."

Joy says she's not nervous about the surgery at all, and is just grateful to have the chance to help Maggie. 

"2020 has been a beast. It's been a beast for parents. It's been a beast for teachers. I have felt like I've had no answers, no time to make real solutions. And this feels like one tiny little thing I can do in 2020 to make it a little bit better," she said. 

Joy's surgery is scheduled for 7:30 on Friday morning. 

Doctors at Emory will remove her kidney and walk it across the street to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta where they'll do Maggie's surgery. 

The families have each other's phone numbers and plan to Facetime with each other after they both wake up. 


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