Finn Lanning took in his homeless 7th-grade student to help him land a transplant

By Jason Duaine Hahn
May 31, 2019 04:07 PM
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When school began this year, Colorado math teacher Finn Lanning likely had no idea it would end with one of his students moving in with him.

According to KDVR, 13-year-old Damien, one of Lanning’s students at AXL Academy in Aurora, has struggled for years with a kidney disease that requires him to be hooked up to dialysis for hours at a time. The 7th grader has also been in foster care most of his life, and his medical needs have kept him from finding a lasting home.

Despite his health issues, Lanning says Damien stood out in class for his go-getter attitude.

“Although he has significant health challenges, he is an excellent student and a kind, generous, and motivated human being,” Lanning wrote in the description to a GoFundMe page he set up for his student.

But being homeless also presented another big obstacle: Damien couldn’t qualify for a kidney transplant because of the risks involved with an unstable living situation.

While a relative was able to care for Damien for a few months last year — which allowed him to be placed on the transplant list — they later returned him to foster custody weeks later. That meant the young boy would have to stay at the hospital full time for treatment.

“He spent, at that point, three or four months living in the hospital waiting for a placement. And over that time, I started out going in to give him his work and just hang out with him a little bit, keep him caught up in the classroom. And as I learned more about his story and what he was facing and what his needs were and why they weren’t being met, it just became really hard for me to look the other way,” Lanning told KDVR.

Finn Lanning and Damien
Go Fund Me

“Unable to keep his challenges off my heart and mind,” he continued in his post on GoFundMe, “I began the personal journey of considering taking on his care.”

Lanning moved Damien into his home, which allowed the boy to be placed on the transplant list, which they hope he will stay on until a kidney comes in, ideally in the next few weeks.

“It’s going good,” Damien told the news station of his new surroundings. “Like, I got my own room now.”

About 20 people a day die awaiting organ transplants, according to the American Transplant Foundation, and there are over 115,000 people currently on the waiting list to receive a life-saving organ.

A healthy person can donate a kidney, or a part of their liver, lung, intestine, blood or bone marrow, and make a valuable difference in someone’s life, the foundation says.

Lanning says their story won’t end once Damien gets his kidney.

“We’re planning on just staying together,” he told KDVR. “Hoping for adoption, probably.”