Gift of Life: St. Leo teacher donates kidney to colleague
Lauren Crupi learned in December that she was in dire need of a kidney transplant. Little did she know that her eventual benefactor would be a fellow teacher at St. Leo the Great School, Lincroft.
After passing all the necessary and rigorous rounds of testing, computer science teacher Michael Daneman donated one of his kidneys to Crupi, an upper school language arts teacher.
“He was one of the first people to sign up and get tested,” Crupi told the school faculty before surgery. “Luckily, he was a match and had no reservations about it since this process began.”
The school’s Facebook page announced that the June 1 surgeries went well and asked for continued prayers for Crupi and Daneman, who were to remain in the hospital for several days.
The search for a kidney for Crupi was not entirely a surprise; she watched her mother and sister go through successful transplants; all three have a rare, genetic kidney disease.
“It wasn’t until December that my nephrologist informed me that my kidneys were starting to fail more rapidly, and that I would need a donor as soon as possible,” Crupi said.
Enter Crupi's husband, Paul, who created a Jan. 1 Facebook post informing people of his wife’s need – especially since no relatives were a match. The post was shared 116 times. And that’s when Danemen did some soul-searching.
“I started thinking about how she’s a wonderful person, and one of the kindest people you will ever meet,” he said. “Then, I started thinking about her children [Ben and Caroline] ... Lauren is around the same age that my mother was when she passed away from cancer. It really puts into perspective that these kids need their mom, and they need her to be healthy. Her husband Paul needs his wife. If I could do something to help make that happen, I wanted to.”
Daneman said watching how his family banded together following his mother’s passing also influenced his desire to help. “My mother had five sisters, who all took a huge role in helping to raise me and my sisters,” he said, noting that two of them who have since died were organ donors. “Many people were helped by receiving organs from them. It would be nice to be able to give the same kind of gift while I am still alive. Since losing them, I have become an organ donor myself, I regularly donate blood, and I am on a list as a bone marrow donor.”
The St. Leo the Great community rallied around the teachers with prayers and encouragement. The day before the surgeries, the Faculty Sunshine Club gave the teachers a surprise send-off breakfast, organized by fellow teacher and club moderator Kate Folk. That afternoon, Principal Caroline Fitzgerald organized a surprise school-wide “clap-out,” during which students and faculty lined the hallways to cheer and clap with pom-poms as Crupi and Daneman passed by. Sixth-grade students made quilts for Crupi and Daneman with inspirational messages, and the entire student body wore bracelets in support of Team Mike and Team Lauren. Father John T. Folchetti, pastor of St. Leo the Great Parish, as well as staff and administration wore green to promote kidney disease awareness.
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