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'Connected forever': School coworkers who underwent kidney transplant go back to school

A counselor at Woodland Elementary School donated her kidney to a teacher at Woodland back in April, even though they barely knew each other.

HENRY COUNTY, Ga. — Coworkers at a Henry County school who only knew each other in passing, but became bound forever when one donated a kidney to the other, began the next chapter of their intertwined lives with the first day of school Thursday.

Almost three months to the day after the transplant surgery, 11Alive was at Woodland Elementary School to see how the counselor and teacher are doing.

Students were happy to welcome back teacher NaKisha Wynn and counselor Tiffany Austin, and eager to hear all about what they did on their remarkable summer break.

“We had surgery on April 30,” Wynn, who had stage five kidney disease, told her class on Wednesday.

RELATED: 'Jesus chose me for you' | Educators at same school are perfect match for kidney donation

A year ago, Wynn had been on dialysis three nights a week.

She’d been trying to find a donor for months when, suddenly, the donor found her. Austin heard about Wynn, and even though they barely knew each other, Austin said she felt God calling her to offer Wynn her kidney.

And Austin surprised Wynn at school the day she found out they were a perfect match, showing up at Wynn's classroom door with a hand-made sign that read, "Jesus chose me for you."

“I screamed, I cried,” Wynn said back in April.

“We’re connected forever!” Austin said.

Three months later, they’re still marveling at that connection.

“Oh yeah, that’s what we did, we both showed each other our scars,” Austin said as they both laughed.

They said now they’re on a mission to show people how strangers can form a deeply human bond, and save lives by becoming organ donors.

“I’m just thrilled that was on my heart,” Austin said. “And this was my mission, of showing what love looks like.”

Their kidney transplant surgery was one of more than 19,000 organ transplants in the U.S. so far this year, which still leaves more than 113,000 people across the country needing an organ transplant, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, "UNOS." More than 5,000 of them are in Georgia right now, most waiting years for a donor.

Wynn's and Austin's students, back at school after the summer break, were eager to hear about the process.

“Did you have to do an MRI to make sure that, like, the kidney was in there good?” one asked.

“Yes, we both did,” Wynn responded.

Another student asked her, “How long did it take to recover?”

“It’s going to take me a full year for recovery,” she said.

Wynn added that as Austin spreads the message of organ donation, she’s reminding people that it starts with self-care.

“Her message is encouraging people to be organ donors,” she said. “My message is to make sure you stay on top of your health.”

And as they move forward with their newfound connection, it’s spreading to their extended families.

“Her uncle, Bernard, he’ll call me, and just be like, ‘What’s going on? How are you feeling?’ And then he always ends it, ‘I love you',” Austin said. “And we just met! But I know that that’s a connection.”

Wynn put it simply: “I can say we are all one family.”


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