AURORA, Colo. (FOX 13) - A teacher in Colorado is going to extraordinary lengths to help his sick student get a kidney transplant: He's going through the process of adopting him.
Finn Lanning is a middle school math teacher at AXL Academy in Aurora, Colorado. He said the school year started normally enough, until his student Damien told him he'd be leaving school early.
“One day, he showed up and just said he wasn’t going to be back anymore. And when I questioned him about that, he told me that he was going back to live in the hospital,” Lanning told FOX 31.
The 13-year-old has a kidney disorder called Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis, or FSGS, and has to be on dialysis for 12 hours a day. Damien desperately needs a new kidney, but isn't eligible for a transplant because he is homeless.
Damien ended up in the foster care system due to his costly health issues. But when a proper home placement isn't available, the seventh grader has to live in the hospital.
“When you’re living in the hospital, you’re not able to be on the transplant list because folks who don’t have stable housing are considered high-risk for their organ not to work,” Lanning said.
It also means Damien can't leave to attend school because of hospital liability issues.
Lanning said the young teen had spent three to four months living in the hospital while waiting for placement in a foster home.
"Over that time, I started out going in to give him his work and just hang out with him a little bit, keep him caught up in the classroom," Lanning said. "And as I learned more about his story and what he was facing and what his needs were and why they weren’t being met, it just became really hard for me to look the other way."
Though he has no children of his own, Lanning decided to have Damien live with him. It got the teen out of the hospital -- and moved to the top of the waiting list for a new kidney.
Lanning is undergoing foster care certification, which takes six to eight months to complete. But he plans on staying in Damien's life for the long run.
"I am committed to not being another adult that lets Damien down in his life," Lanning wrote on his GoFundMe page, which is raising money to help with the costs of Damien's care and strict dietary needs.
They are hoping Damien could get a kidney within the next two weeks. It will be his second chance at life -- and at having a family.
“We’re planning on just staying together. Hoping for adoption, probably,” Damien said.
This story was reported from Tampa, Fla.