Lucy Knight is among the favorite pre-kindergarten teachers at Kentwood Elementary School in Westchester, and she considers herself lucky to have been able to teach for the last 14 years. But now Knight is concerned her days in the classroom may be cut short.
"I want to continue to really help these kids, sharpening their minds and get them ready for life. And this is what I love to do," said Knight.
The 42-year-old has polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a genetic disorder that spurs clusters of cysts to grow in the kidneys and can lead to full kidney failure.
"None of my family members are qualified for donations, and so my husband, he wanted to donate his kidney, but we found out he has cancer," said Knight.
Doctors tell Knight she has six months to a year to find a kidney donor. And that's where a group of parents, teachers and children come in.
"She's my favorite teacher and I love her and I hope she gets better," said kindergarten student Madeleine Lehr.
"We are trying to raise money, trying to help offset medical bills, and also raise awareness, and find her a kidney donor," said Dena Freidman, a parent at the school.
Knight's story isn't unique. PKD causes about 5 percent of all kidney failures. Some 60,000 to 70,000 people with PKD are now waiting for kidney transplants. Yet there is little awareness of the disease, doctors say, because adult PKD symptoms don't often show up until the mid 30s or 40s, and some patients may never require a kidney transplant.
But Knight and many others do. Thus the need for more living donors.
"It's dramatically gratifying to see the lives of kidney patients improved, and actually also the lives of kidney donors who can walk around justifiably with a tremendous sense of self-worth that they've done something marvelous for someone else," said Dr. Gabriel Danovitch, medical director of the kidney transplant program at UCLA Medical Center.