Lifestyle & Human Interest

When Student Was Denied Kidney Transplant Because He Didn't Have a Stable Home, Teacher Stepped In To Adopt Him


A teenage boy has a new set of kidneys and a new life thanks to his middle-school teacher who is in the process of adopting him out of foster care.

Finn Lanning, a math and science teacher at AXL Academy in Aurora, Colorado, was floored when he learned in 2018 that one of his students, then-12-year-old Damien, had to live at a hospital.

Damien had been living in foster care, but his medical needs were so overwhelming that it was very difficult for foster families to commit to his care.

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“The county would attempt to find placements for him, and multiple potential foster homes showed up for the first day or two of his medical training, only to realize the extent of his needs and back out,” Lanning told The Western Journal in May 2019.

What Damien desperately needed was a kidney transplant, but because his home life was unstable, the boy was taken off the transplant list.

“Despite the best efforts of the staff, a hospital wing is not a place for a child to live,” Lanning told The Western Journal. “His conditions were closer to a prison than a home.”

After careful consideration, Lanning invited the boy to move in with him as a kinship placement until he could become a certified foster parent.

The move placed Damien back on the transplant list and in June 2019, the boy completed a successful and highly-anticipated kidney transplant surgery, according to People.

More than six months later, Damien now has a whole new life. He has returned to school, plays sports, enjoys swimming, and perhaps best of all, has a family.

Lanning is in the process of adopting Damien, a decision both father and son are excited about.

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“I’m grateful that Finn has helped me have a place to live, make friends and enjoy my life,” Damien told People.

Lanning, who was a 37-year-old bachelor when he began to foster Damien, said becoming a father has been a joyful surprise in his life.

“It’s the simple things we enjoy doing together. I never thought I would end up being a father. I feel very lucky,” Lanning said.

The father-son duo enjoys cooking together and visiting the arcade and traveled to Wichita, Kansas, over Christmas to celebrate with Lanning’s family.

“You kind of lose hope after a while when you’re living in the hospital,” Damien said.

“But now, I can settle in, go to school, make friends and live a good life. It changed my perspective on the world. Now, I can do anything.”

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A graduate of Grand Canyon University, Kim Davis has been writing for The Western Journal since 2015, focusing on lifestyle stories.
Kim Davis began writing for The Western Journal in 2015. Her primary topics cover family, faith, and women. She has experience as a copy editor for the online publication Thoughtful Women. Kim worked as an arts administrator for The Phoenix Symphony, writing music education curriculum and leading community engagement programs throughout the region. She holds a degree in music education from Grand Canyon University with a minor in eating tacos.
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