The gift of life

Sharing is a principle that 8-year old Nicole Miller will continue to learn throughout her life from her kindergarten teacher, Wendy Killian, originally from Fowler.

Last week, Killian underwent surgery at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland and donated her kidney to Nicole, of Mansfield, who was born with a genetic disorder that left her with a single kidney, which does not work properly.

“She was born with only one small kidney, and the doctors said it won’t be able to keep up,” said Letitia Miller, Nicole’s mother.

Killian, 39, said it all began with a routine parent-teacher conference at Mansfield Christian School with Nicole’s mother. As Miller listed criteria needed for a kidney donor for her daughter, Killian said she realized she would be the perfect match. Killian said she returned home after the meeting, told her husband about it and was met with an immediate response of support from him.

“God doesn’t need us for a miracle, but to be used for one is so honoring. It’s just indescribable,” Killian said.

Killian’s husband, Stu, supported her decision, which she talked through with him.

“I thought it was a great thing to do,” he said. “God puts you in certain situations for a reason.”

Killian stepped in at just the right time; Miller said at the state Nicole’s kidney was in, they were only 4 percent away from having to begin dialysis. The family had already gone through other donors who were unable to meet the criteria, including a niece who went through the entire six-month process of being tested. When Killian decided to go through with being a donor after speaking with her family, Miller said she was “just floored.”

But Killian said as a teacher it is easy to become possessive of her students as if they are her own children. Despite her disorder keeping her from school at times and requiring medical attention, Nicole was always excited to come to school, Killian said.

“She’s my sunshine girl ’cause she’d come into the room with a big smile and just ready to go,” she said.

The two under went surgery on April 23 and are recovering well. Killian said one of her family members overheard a doctor at the hospital saying that the kidney seemed to be “created just to be put in (Nicole).”

Being a donor holds a special place in Killian’s life. Her own son, now 9, was ill as an infant and required a blood platelet transfusion.

“I remember sitting there and thanking God for the donor,” she said.

Killian said she is grateful to have the opportunity to be the donor in this case.

Miller said receiving a new kidney from someone she knew was helpful.

“It’s good to have a donor that is someone she knows loves her,” she said, “and is going to have a relationship with her through the rest of her life.”

Lifeline of Ohio reports that someone in Ohio dies every 48 hours while waiting for a transplant; more than 2,000 have died in that situation in the past decade.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.