PACIFIC, Mo. (KTVI) – A little girl from Pacific, Missouri, just received a new kidney that she’s needed since birth. Her donor? Her pre-kindergarten teacher.
Kayleigh Kulage was born prematurely at just 26 weeks.
“She was 15.2 ounces and 11.25 inches when she was born,” said her mother, Desiree Kulage. “She was in the NICU for 158 days.”
Kayleigh is now 5 years old.
“If she didn’t have … tubes on her or anything you, wouldn’t really know anything’s wrong with her,” Desiree Kulage said. “She never cries. She never complains about pain. She’s a happy kid. I couldn’t have been any luckier to have her.”
Kayleigh’s parents used to set up peritoneal dialysis for her every night.
“We were telling Kayleigh because we were giving her a bath that you won’t have your catheter anymore, you won’t have to do dialysis anymore. A whole new chapter,” said Josh Kulage, Kayleigh’s father.
Robin Mach met Kayleigh in 2019.
“She was a student at our school. And then she had to receive some home services, so I got to do that. So, I’ve been working with Kayleigh for about a year and a half,” Mach said. “She needed it. I wanted her to have a normal life and go to school. And this is how we can help her get there.”
Both surgeries were successful and the new kidney is working well. But the first 24 hours were scary and painful for Kayleigh and her family.
“She’s come out of it like a trooper. I had the PICU doctor yesterday say that he can’t believe she just had major surgery less than a week ago and that she’s probably the happiest child in the hospital,” said Desiree.
Mach keeps in touch every day as she recovers.
“She’s incredible. She was offering to do our laundry and take me back and forth. And I’m like, ‘You just had major surgery. You need to go home and rest,’” Desiree Kulage said of Mach. “I don’t know how to thank her. So, all I keep on saying is thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
With this kidney, Kayleigh has a chance at a normal childhood.
“She has never had a bath, like a normal bath. She’ll be able to swim, maybe experience the ocean,” her mother said. “So, she’s going to be able to experience stuff she’s never been able to experience.”