Essex Tech superintendent donates kidney to save teacher's life
DANVERS - Dave Collins is beloved at Essex Tech in Danvers. He's the best kind of teacher. But last year, he was in the worst shape. After decades living with kidney disease, he was in end stage renal failure and needed every-other-day dialysis to stay alive.
"I'm a bricklayer, I'm a mason. I'd be working with the kids laying bricks and I'd have to sit down. I couldn't pick my head up," Collins said, of struggling to teach his masonry classes.
"It broke me to see him in the pain, unable to live the life I know he was capable of living," daughter Shelby recalled.
Shelby made it her mission to find her dad a kidney. And the perfect match came as a total surprise: Dave and Shelby's boss, Heidi Riccio, the superintendent of Essex Tech.
"You do it because it's the right thing to do. My parents always taught me to do what is right, not what is easy," Heidi Riccio said.
But it sure was easy - getting the green light and calling her coworker and friend to change his life. To give him life.
"She said, 'Pack your bags.' What? She said, 'We're going to Mass General together.' I said, 'You're kidding me. I won't believe it 'til it's time. It was time," Dave said.
True educators, they scheduled the transplant during time off over February school vacation.
"The living donor program at Mass General is the best. That's why we live in Massachusetts. I had the surgery on Tuesday, I went home on Wednesday, and I went back to work remotely on Monday," said Heidi.
Heidi said it was her love for her own daughters, that made her so willing to do this for another dad.
"It's like a fairy tale really. To have my boss donate the kidney. That's pretty special, to give me a part of her," said Dave.
"It's the most amazing feeling. I'm so thankful. My father is going to be here to see the milestones in my life moving forward. I'm an only child. My parents are my everything," Shelby added.
Despite Dave's friends and family encouraging him to take the rest of the school year off - he'll be right back here in the classroom after April vacation. He wants to be with his seniors and celebrate them at graduation.
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