Outstanding educators often go above and beyond their pay grade to ensure their students get the best academic experience possible.
One compassionate math teacher from Aurora, Colorado, has taken that “above and beyond” mentality to a whole new level.
When Finn Lanning — who teaches 7th and 8th grade at AXL Academy — learned that one of his students needed more than just a lesson on fractions, he stepped up to meet a huge need.
“Our school is small, so we are a tight-knit community that tends to develop strong relationships between the school and students [and] families,” Lanning told Liftable, a section of The Western Journal.
One of those students is Damien, a 13-year-old who has been in the foster care system. Damien was born with a kidney disease — a result of an autoimmune disorder.
He’s in need of a new kidney but isn’t a candidate unless he can be in a stable home environment where he can receive constant care. That’s where Mr. Lanning comes in.
“I knew Damien had some health issues that sometimes caused him to miss school, take regular medications, and not be able to eat the things that other students were eating,” he told Liftable.
Even so, Lanning says that the young man has maintained a “positive attitude.”
From hospital stays to bouncing around from home to home, Damien hasn’t complained. When Lanning learned that Damien was in need of a good home and caregiver, he decided to provide both.
“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 Liftable, explaining that Damien’s care includes a restrictive diet, medications and injections, and traveling for appointments.
The great amount of commitment it would take to care for Damien was no small feat. His need for nightly dialysis administration alone would take training.
“As a consequence, the only place he could live was in the hospital,” Lanning said.
While the hospital could provide all Damien needed, it wouldn’t give him a normal environment in which he could live and interact with peers.
Lanning began to pay close attention to Damien in the time they would spend together during their tutoring sessions in the hospital. When he saw that the boy lacked “general stimulation” Lanning began bringing him other things to do aside from math such as crafts and electronics projects.
Sadly, Damien’s appearance and overall demeanor did not improve.
“Despite the best efforts of the staff, a hospital wing is not a place for a child to live,” Lanning said. “His conditions were closer to a prison than a home.”
Lanning couldn’t get the boy off his mind. It was when a doctor said, “If you know anyone who wants a great kid, send them our way!” that the math teacher started to wonder if he was that someone who wanted a great kid.
“This jump-started the consideration that I might be able to help Damien with more than math,” Lanning told Liftable.
It’s taken some time and the process hasn’t been easy, but Lanning was eventually able to have Damien placed in his home through uncertified kinship care and an official adoption is in the works — something Damien made clear he wanted.
“It’s a 24-hour commitment,” Lanning told KMGH-TV. “It’s been exhausting and wonderful, and maybe the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
While Lanning is in the process of becoming a certified foster parent, he currently has no help from the state for Damien’s medical needs.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help ease this new family’s burden.
“In foster care you jump from house to house,” Damien told KMGH-TV, “and that’s kind of hard because you usually only have a bag full of clothes, but here, I have a good amount of clothes and my own stuff and my own room.”
What an amazing thing to see happen for this young man. Hopefully he will get a new kidney and Mr. Lanning will officially be “dad” soon.
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