Sometimes, it’s not family or friends that come through in a time of need, but, instead, a very unlikely person. This was the case for one high school principal who received the kindest gift anyone could have ever given him.
Her small town values taught her that if someone is in need, you do whatever you can to help them. Even if that meant she had to risk her own life to do it…
Who Is Natalie Parker?
Natalie grew up on a farm outside the small town of Parkerville, Kansas. She is the oldest of five kids, three of which are identical triplet sisters. Some of Natalie’s earliest childhood memories involve going down to the dairy barn with her dad and watching him milk the cows. It was safe to say she had a very carefree youth…
That would change, however, when Natalie’s family were having dinner at Pizza Hut one day in February. Natalie was a sophomore at Council Grove High School at the time and her dad received an alarming call that their house was going up in flames. They frantically gathered into the car and drove 17 miles towards their home, watching the orange glow of fire grow more intense as they got closer…
They Lost Everything
When Natalie’s family arrived at their farm, it was too late. Their entire home burned down with everything in it. Clothes, foods, furniture and even Natalie’s piano had burned to a crisp. The fire took every material possession from the Parker family, but it didn’t take their memories.
After the fire, their community gathered around them in support. Growing up in a small town means dealing with problems such as isolation, poverty and lack of opportunity, but when it comes to helping out a neighbor, it’s all hands on deck. When Natalie’s house burned down, donations came in from all over…
A guy even left his home down the road and moved into his parent’s house so Natalie’s family would have a place to live while their home was being rebuilt. It was this sense of generosity and community that Natalie carried with her into her adult life.
Natalie became a teacher, working at Tonganoxie Elementary School and she married an incredible man named David Frese. She loved her school and had been working there for numerous years when she noticed something was off with her Principal, Ty Poell…
Something Was Wrong
All of Natalie’s co-workers noticed a change with Principal Poell and students began saying that he didn’t sing over the intercom anymore and his skin seemed yellow. Principal Poell didn’t hear well and he’d even walk down the hall in the afternoon looking like he hadn’t slept in days. Teachers would have conversations with him and began to wonder if he understood anything he was saying.
Principal Poell was always so cold that even in the middle of the summer, he would leave his office to go sit in his pickup truck in the parking lot. There he’d sit in the driver’s seat, blasting the heat to get warm. Eventually, Principal Poell told his staff that he was suffering from kidney failure…
Poell had Alport Syndrome, which is a genetic condition that results in kidney disease. His health was deteriorating rapidly and his only chance at getting healthy again was to get a kidney transplant. At the time, Principal Poell would spend nine hours a night on dialysis and his home looked like a medical supplies warehouse, with boxes of fluid stacked in his bedroom.
Waiting For A Kidney Donor
His wife, Jessica took care of their two sons and was heartbroken watching her husband’s health decline. The family were told that the average wait for a kidney donor was about 3.5 half years, but they knew they couldn’t wait that long. Jessica decided to see if she was a match…
Finding A Match
Jessica made it through a couple of rounds of testing to see if she was a donor match and things were looking good. A few days later, however, doctors told Jessica her kidney wasn’t strong enough for her to be a donor for her husband. She was devastated and cried the entire way home.
Reaching Out On Facebook
When she got home, Jessica decided to put out a call for kidney donors for her husband on Facebook. Many teachers and locals in the district went to see if they were a match, but nearly all were turned away. Natalie went to visit Principal Poell in December after his gall bladder surgery and she saw he was in terrible pain. She knew she had to do something…
Natalie Steps Up
Natalie had already discovered she was a match for Principal Poell and she decided to deliver him the good news. Natalie broke down herself, and told him, “I’m doing this.” Over the next couple of weeks, she answered questionnaires about her medical history and monitored her blood pressure every day. She even sent vials of blood for testing and collected her urine for 24 hours.
The Ultimate Sacrifice
In January, Natalie spent a full day at the University of Kansas Hospital and they told her they would be removing her left kidney, which she nicknamed, “Lefty.” Natalie met with a team of people, including a social worker, pharmacist, financial consultant, nutritionist, a nephrologist and a surgeon. She learned that they were saying anything to try and talk her out of going through with it…
Although all of the costs of the surgery would be paid for by Principal Poell’s insurance and transplant center, the team wanted to make sure Natalie knew she wouldn’t be paid for the kidney donation. They interrogated her asking how she was going to feel about the scarring on her belly and how she would feel if the transplant didn’t take.
They also informed her that doctors were removing an organ and that it was going to hurt. Natalie handled these questions like a champ and she checked into the hospital for surgery on March 21. The person at admissions asked who would be receiving her kidney and when Natalie said her boss, the woman gasped…
Natalie’s Pastor prayed before she was admitted to the operating room, but her husband David was worried. He even begged God or The Universe to allow someone else with a kidney match to walk into the hospital so that Natalie didn’t have to do it. He regrets these feelings, but he was nervous.
Natalie and Principal Poell went into the operating rooms at about the same time and Natalie’s kidney was removed. Doctors quickly walked the kidney across the way to another team who attached it to Poell. They would see each other in a few hours, given that all went well…
It Was A Success
About an hour later, Principal Poell’s surgeon came to talk to the families and shared the good news. “The kidney is producing urine like a new baby boy. It even got pee on my shoes.” Both David, Jessica and the rest of Natalie and Principal Poell’s families were over the moon. The whirlwind of emotions was palpable.
Two days after their surgeries, Poell went to Natalie’s room to see her for the first time since the operation. He shared with her that he was already feeling better and that she had saved his life. They are both doing well and getting better day by day. Principal Poell is back to himself and he is forever indebted to Natalie.