Palisadian Donates Kidney to Marquez Elementary Teacher

By LILY TINOCO | Reporter

One Palisadian’s recent act of selflessness helped save another’s life.

Mikael Kuhn donated her left kidney after learning that her son’s second-grade Marquez Charter Elementary School teacher, Wendy Connor, was suffering from Alport syndrome and end-stage kidney failure.

Connor had been taking high-blood pressure medication for at least 20 years to help protect her kidneys, but was shocked when she found out she had chronic renal failure just two years ago after genetic testing.

Kuhn and Connor the weekend before surgery
Photo courtesy of Mikael Kuhn

Her husband immediately offered his own kidney but was unable to donate because he found he had kidney stones. Others initially signaled an offer to Connor, but were unable to follow through.

“Some people didn’t want to do surgery or they couldn’t take the time off work, all these different reasons,” Connor said to the Palisadian-Post. “It’s a really big commitment to give a kidney.”

Connor’s kidney function eventually declined to 10% and she had to start a type of treatment called peritoneal dialysis, which works overnight to filter blood inside the body as a kidney would.

Treatment is a grueling process, but Connor was determined to keep teaching.

She sent a letter to the parents of her second-grade class explaining her condition and that her availability would be limited because of her daily dialysis schedule.

After receiving the letter from her youngest son who was in Connor’s class, Kuhn asked to meet with Connor in person to learn more—little did Connor know that Kuhn would be offering one of her own kidneys to her at that meeting.

Connor recalled Kuhn asking her, “Everybody has two kidneys right?” and “You only need one to live right … Why is everyone hoarding them then?”

“That was the moment I realized this was different, nobody else had seen it that way, as a simple gift to give,” Connor said.

From there, Kuhn took it upon herself to research, get herself evaluated and tested at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center to become a kidney donor.

Come December 2019, she found she was a perfect match.

“One of the things that we giggled about along the way was when we discovered that our blood type was both A+,” Kuhn said. “We thought it was quite appropriate considering she’s a teacher.”

The two underwent surgery on Wednesday, February 5.

“We ended up being in beds right next to each other and that was really amazing,” Connor shared. “I was able to see when she rolled into surgery, she saw me before she went in, and it was a really comforting way to start the whole process.”

Kuhn added that it has been a pleasure returning the favor to Connor who has spent her whole life and career helping and giving to others.

“I come from a family of teachers, my sister and my mom are both educators,” Kuhn said. “I think I felt a natural draw to want to help … and it all flowed together so beautifully in a way that Wendy and I felt like it was just meant to be.”

Connor and Kuhn are currently recovering, but are grateful for all the support they have received from the community.