Teacher saves custodian’s life with kidney donation

Third-grade teacher Erin Durga’s dad, who is also a teacher, once gave her a piece of advice: Befriend the school custodians because they are the heart of the school. But when custodian Pat Mertens needed something it wasn’t a heart — it was a kidney. 

Too proud to ask for help on his own, his daughter pleaded on Facebook for someone to donate a kidney and “help save a life.” 

Durga saw the post and told her husband she planned on donating a kidney. 

“About 30 seconds into reading this, I turn to my husband, and I said, Pat needs a kidney, it needs to be O-type blood, and I think it’s going to be me,” she said. 

Pat Mertens and Erin Durga


She was right. Durga was a match. 

“There were tears and there were hugs and it was beautiful,” Durga said. 

Mertens received the kidney transplant in July, which was a success. Both Mertens and Durga were healthy enough to return to work in August. 

With the donation, Mertens said he now has his life back. 

“I don’t know how I can ever thank you,” Mertens said. 

“I feel somewhat embarrassed almost every time he says that,” Durga said, adding that she didn’t donate her kidney for the praise. 

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