A Paulding County teacher is giving the gift of life to one of his students. Kaden Koebcke, 12, has needed a new kidney for most of his life.
Tuesday, Kaden underwent a transplant at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. The donor is William Wilkinson – Kaden’s 6th grade technology teacher at Grace Christian Academy in Powder Springs.
“There are no words to even begin to describe how this is making me feel for Will to give this amazing gift to my son,” said Cami Koebcke, Kaden’s mother, in a phone interview from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “There is no greater gift.”
Last year, Kaden’s family started a Facebook page, Kaden's Kidney Search, to find a living donor. Several people got tested.
In May, the Koebcke family learned from Kaden’s doctor a match had been made.
At the end of the school year, Wilkinson, who has a son about the same age as Kaden, and is friends with the Koebcke family, stopped by their house.
Cami Koebcke remembered Wilkinson asking, ‘Would you like to know who the donor is?’
Of course, the family wanted to know, but strict privacy rules generally prevent hospitals from sharing personal information about donors, at least initially. Over time, donors and recipients can typically connect if both donor and recipient provide consent.
So the family responded by saying yes they wanted to know, thinking the donor could be anywhere - perhaps someone in their neighborhood or perhaps someone on the other side of the country.
Well, it’s me, said Wilkinson.
“We were all so shocked. We almost fell to the floor,” said Cami Koebcke.
Koebcke was diagnosed with a kidney disease when he was two-years-old. At age 5, he underwent a transplant, receiving a kidney from his father. But it wasn’t successful, and the new kidney had to be removed within days of the transplant.
For several years, Kaden underwent dialysis at home, but as his condition grew more dire over the last couple years, he has required dialysis three times a week at a clinic.
Meanwhile, Wilkinson has been Kaden’s technology teacher for at least two years. They are both part of a close-knit school community. Wilkinson’s son William and Kaden were in cub scouts together but as Kaden’s health deteriorated, Kaden was no longer able to participate in the activities.
Wilkinson’s wife, Veronica Wilkinson, said she was surprised when her husband first told her about his plans to get tested to see if he could be a match for Kaden.
“I was both surprised and moved to be honest because I didn’t think it would be the type of thing he would do,” said Veronica Wilkinson. “But he told me that God has a plan, and God’s plan was over his heart and he was going to pursue testing and see if he was a match for Kaden.”
Once it was determined that Wilkinson, who is 44, was a perfect match Kaden, there was no question he would move forward with donating a kidney.
“We are people of faith,” said Veronica Wilkinson. “We don’t believe something like this happens by coincidence.”
Both surgeries took place Tuesday. The surgery went well for Kaden, but doctors and nurses are monitoring him closely for signs of possible complications.
The surgery also went well for Wilkinson, who underwent surgery at nearby Emory University Hospital, according to family. He will likely be off work for about six weeks.
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