Erin Durga and Pat Mertens both started working at Kimball Elementary School in Kimball, Minn., in 2011. She teaches third grade. He is a custodian. Over the years, they formed a friendship. They would chat about their kids in the evening, as Durga, 38, finished her day and Mertens, 64, cleaned her classroom. Durga ended up sending her kids to a daycare run by Mertens' wife, Lynda, and the bond between the two was cemented last summer when Durga donated a kidney to Mertens. "Who expects a teacher to give their kidney to a custodian?" Lynda Mertens tells the Washington Post. "She's our miracle, our angel." Doctors diagnosed Mertens with congestive heart and kidney failure in 2017, per CNN. It could take years to find donor, he was told. With Mertens on dialysis, his daughter posted on Facebook that they were seeking a type-O blood donor.
Durga saw the post and knew what she wanted to do. "I'd been wanting for a while to do something big for someone. I just didn't know what it was going to be," she tells CNN. "When I read the post from his daughter, I just got chills. I had a feeling it was going to be my something. I knew from that moment that I was going to be a match." And when she found out that she was a match, she arrived at the Mertens' home wearing a shirt that had the word "donor" written across the front, per the Star Tribune. "It brought a few tears to my eyes," Mertens tells the paper, adding that he's not a big hugger. But in this case, "I had to. She was giving me her kidney. It's quite an honor that someone would give you their kidney." The transplant was done in July. Both Durga and Mertens have recovered and remain close. "We'll forever be grateful for her," Lynda Mertens tells the Post. (Read more uplifting news stories.)