The holiday season sparks unconditional gifts from across the globe. But some gifts are much more meaningful than a tin of cookies or a shiny new bicycle. Like a kidney, perhaps.
Patrick Mertens and Erin Durga have a story to share, bound by kindness and compassion.
Mertens, a 64-year-old high school custodian at Kimball Elementary School in Kimball, Minn., needed a kidney donor earlier this year. What began as a Facebook post by Mertens’ daughter, Kayla, eventually spawned a call to action from Durga, a third-grade teacher at the same school.
She could have given him money to help with costs of his dialysis. Instead, she offered him one of her kidneys.
“I felt in my heart, from the very beginning, that this was my thing,” Durga, a mother of three, told The Washington Post. “Once I decided that, yes, I’m going to donate to Pat, I felt really good about it, and I was at peace with it throughout the entire thing.”
Mertens and Durga first met in 2011 after she began teaching at Kimball Elementary School. They developed a strong bond, with chats focused on children. When Durga learned that Mertens’ wife ran a day-care facility, she sent her son, Rhone, there.
The connection grew deeper on July 3, when Mertens drove to M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis for the procedure. Durga was able to calm his fears by talking to him before the surgery, which was successful.
“I told Erin, when I first woke up out of surgery, it was nothing I’ve ever felt before,” he told The Post. “It was a new life.”
They have stayed in touch, of course.
Mertens sent Durga flowers at Thanksgiving and still calls her often to thank her for her compassionate act of kindness.
“She’s our miracle, our angel,” said Lynda Mertens, Patrick’s wife. “We’ll forever be grateful for her.”