Gena Garner (left) is donating part of her liver to her former student Riley Highland.
Photo: Channel 2 Action News
Photo: Channel 2 Action News

North Georgia teen to receive liver donation from her former kindergarten teacher

A Forsyth County teenager in desperate need of a liver transplant is getting an organ donated by her former kindergarten teacher, Channel 2 Action News reported. 

Riley Highland, 16, was diagnosed with liver disease four years ago, the news station reported. 

Her father, Chris Highland, said they’ve spent years looking for a donor. 

“When your liver is not doing well — it’s your source of energy,” he told Channel 2. 

However, a donor came along recently in the form of one of his coworkers at Forsyth Middle School. Gena Garner said after she learned of the teen’s need that she decided to give 60 percent of her liver to Highland, Channel 2 reported. 


“When I come to work, I ask the Lord to give me an opportunity to help other people,” Garner told the news station. “To do a favor. I never dreamed it would be something like this.” 

Garner said she realized her connection to Highland was even stronger than she first thought when she recalled having the teen in her classroom nearly 12 years ago. 

“I pulled out my son’s yearbook and looked up her picture,” she said. “And, yes! I remember this little girl!” 

Riley Highland said it was “really surprising” that Garner was her donor. 

“Because she was one of my favorite teachers in elementary school,” Highland said. “She’s just part of our family now. I don’t know how to thank her for this.” 

This story was first reported by Channel 2 Action News. 

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