Thursday, February 27, 2014

An Unusual Medium

Mary Wilson
When a loved one passes away, oftentimes those left behind search for things to help keep the memories alive. Aside from mementos, photographs, a gravesite or an urn, some might look for something a bit more personal. There are a few options on the market today, including jewelry with the ashes of a loved one encased inside. A Grandview artist is offering up something different.

 Adam Brown can make a custom portrait of a loved one, and include cremation remains in the final product. Moving to the Kansas City area roughly six years ago, Brown has been an artist for most of his life. He attended the Missouri Fine Arts Academy in his hometown of Springfield, and gave up painting for a few years after some art supplies were stolen from his space at the Academy before his senior year.

"When I met my wife and we got engaged, I wanted to do something nice for my soon-to-be father-in-law," said Brown. "I painted a lighthouse for him using only five tubes of paint, mixing my own colors. I realized that art was still a part of me, and I hadn’t lost any of it."

Slowly over time, art came back to the forefront of Brown’s life. While his wife was pregnant with their daughter, Brown painted an "under the sea" themed mural in the nursery. 


 "It was really cute and reminded me how much I enjoyed making art," said Brown. "I never got to finish it though, because the walls had mold in them, which sent my daughter to the hospital three times in her first ten weeks of life, with breathing problems."

 Once the family figured out where the health problems were coming from, they moved to a cleaner environment. For his daughter’s first birthday, Brown painted a portrait of her with butterflies that he presented to her at her party. Since her first birthday (she’s now five), Brown has had a space to work on his art. Over the last few years, he has completed dozens of portraits, commissioned mostly by word of mouth from his clients.

"The portraits are what I do the most; it’s what I’m known for," said Brown. "I do other things too, including landscapes. Whatever helps to pay the bills."

He worked as a corporate event planner for several years, but knew it wasn’t something that he could see himself doing long-term. Brown recently opened his own marketing company, providing a wide-range of services that he did previously for his employer, and now is able to set his own hours.

"I’ll be thirty-three next month, and I’m in a position now that I can look ahead into the next thirty years and not get tired of doing what I’m doing. I never really feel like I’m working," said Brown.

 While in high school, Brown was introduced to cremation art and was intrigued. A few years ago, he was put in touch with a woman through a friend who wanted a portrait of her late husband. 
"The cremation remains thing just sort of came up in talking with her," said Brown. "It was pretty much her idea."

The client asked Brown if there was any way he could incorporate some remains into the portrait. Initially, Brown wasn’t sure about the idea, but he came around and jumped at the opportunity to create something different. Due to the popularity of the portraits, he has recently added the option to his list of services. Brown is aware that there may be a little of a creep factor for some folks.

"I think I expected it that first time to be a little weird," said Brown. "Once I got to work, it wasn’t weird at all."

The cremation remains are applied to the surface of the portraits, creating a bit of a texture on the background, or wherever the ashes are incorporated. Brown applies craft glue to the area, and then sprinkles the remains on.

"Kind of like when you sprinkled glitter onto glue as a kid," Brown said. "It’s the same process."

Once it dries, he saves any unused remains for the client, and applies a sealant to protect the portrait. Brown’s charges start at $45 per portrait, and go up from there based on size. He adds the remains at no extra charge. To find more information on Adam Brown and his art, visit www.adamsartgallery.com.

"When I can give a piece to someone and I know it’s going to hang on their wall and every time they look at it they can remember that the person in the portrait was special to them, that means a lot," said Brown. "That’s a big reason I do this."

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hickman Mills Considers Re-Opening Ervin

By Paul Thompson

If C-1 superintendent Dr. Dennis Carpenter gets his way, the vacant Ervin Middle School will re-open for early childhood programming by the start of the 2014-2015 school year.

In addition to his plan to provide early childhood education for each of the approximately 600 four-year olds in the district, Carpenter also proposed turning Hickman Mills into a Freshman Center and creating a new, off-campus alternative education program during an aggressive "Moving Forward" presentation he showed the C-1 Board of Education at their Wednesday, February 12 work session.

Carpenter’s proposal would alter the building layout of the Hickman Mills district for the second time since 2010, when Hickman Mills High School was consolidated with Ruskin and transformed into a junior high. Just four years later, the district is considering another relatively radical change. Under Carpenter’s plan, the Freda Markley Center and Ervin (expected to be renamed the Ervin Early Learning Center) will house pre-school and kindergarten students. The district’s eight elementary schools will serve all first through sixth graders, Smith-Hale Middle School would serve seventh and eighth graders, the renamed Hickman Mills Freshman Center would serve ninth graders, and Ruskin High School would continue to house grades 10-12.

If passed by the school board during the Thursday, February 20 regular session, the proposed projects would be rolled into the district’s pre-existing blueprint and implemented in time for the beginning of the school year. Dr. Carpenter believes that the district cannot afford to wait.

"I believe this is responsible; I believe this is prudent; and I believe that our students can’t wait for us to figure this out," said Carpenter.

The biggest proposal revolves around Ervin, which will need a $7.73 million renovation in order to house students by August. Hollis and Miller, an area architectural firm, inspected Ervin before the work session and came away thinking the school could be ready for the first day of school in August.

"Overall, the facility is still in good shape for renovation," said John Brown, a partner at Hollis and Miller Architects. "One of the key things is that there are critical needs with the roofing, and there are some minor ADA compliance issues."
A preliminary timeline presented by Hollis and Miller anticipates that an official proposal for Ervin could be passed by the March 12 work session. In that event, general construction could begin April 18, construction could be completed by August 1, staff could move into the renovated facility by August 6, and school could open normally by August 20.

"We’re going to put together a team of about six to nine people that will really focus to get this project done," added Brown. "We’ve looked at some of the key big issues up front to make sure the building was where it needed to be moving forward."
 

Aside from an accelerated construction schedule, financing the renovation at Ervin was also discussed at the meeting. Because the administration has asked to have to renovations completed before next school year, there is not enough time for the C-1 district to request a bond from taxpayers. Instead, Carpenter’s plan calls for the district to pursue lease financing for Ervin, a maneuver that would allow the district to maintain their aggressive timetable.

"In essence, you’re borrowing money, and the financing is secured by the actual buildings in the district." said Greg Bricker, an executive vice president for the George K. Baum and Company investment bank, in explaining lease financing. "To meet the timeline that was described to you using the traditional form of debt is not a possibility."

Bricker noted that the $7,730,000 bond could hypothetically be issued as quickly as May 1, 2014. The district would pay the loan back over twenty years, in average annual installments of $589,644.72. If the district were unable to make a payment, however, they could potentially lose access to Ervin.

"The hammer that we have is that we will have, in effect, a mortgage," said Bricker. "If you don’t make your payment, you don’t get to use your building."

In addition to the re-opening of Ervin, Carpenter envisions the creation of a Freshmen Center at Hickman Mills Junior High. In his argument, the superintendent cited research that reveals that students are 3-5 times more likely to fail a class in ninth grade than students in any other grade.

One glance at Hickman Mills’ internal statistics bears out the trend. Of 483 total freshmen in the Hickman Mills district, 71 had at least one F as of the board meeting. Ninety-three students, or roughly 21% of ninth graders, had at least two F’s.
Carpenter says that the Freshman Center would help deter these issues. He told the board that the center would focus on the unique needs of the freshman class, provide necessary support, hold a required freshman seminar, and offer career exploration courses. Carpenter also thinks creating a freshman center will ultimately help Ruskin High School’s graduation rate.
"You’re not going to head off to Ruskin two credits behind," he said.

Another way Carpenter thinks he can get Hickman Mills students on track is through a proposed new alternative education program known as Ombudsman. The Ombudsman program is a national alternative education program dedicated to reducing the stigma surrounding alternative schools and getting students back on track. Carpenter told the board that the district’s current alternative education program is lacking. In his presentation he cited disruptive behavior, failing grades, truancy, teen parenting, and low retention of assigned students among the issues with the status quo. According to Carpenter, Ombudsman would fight those problems.

"If the board moves in this direction, we’ve taken a great step in the right direction, according to what I believe as an educator," he said.
Carpenter believes in providing a high-quality, rigorous curriculum with the district’s alternative program, and focusing on getting more students through Ombudsman and back on a path towards graduation. He thinks that students are currently being underserved through the district’s alternative education programs.

"I have a problem with preparing a student for the GED in grade 10," said Carpenter. "I’ll go on the record; I have a problem with that."
Phyllis Lucia and Fred Thompson were at the meeting on behalf of Ombudsman, and took some time to explain their program in detail. The pair described a structured, supportive learning environment in which each student works at his or her own pace. The program utilizes a blended learning method, and celebrates the gains of each individual student, creating a positive environment for a class of students who may not have that type of positive structure anywhere else in their lives.

"Everyone deserves a second, and sometimes, even a third chance. This is an opportunity that we want to provide students," said Thompson. "Once that light bulb comes on, now we’re on a path moving forward."
Thompson and Lucia don’t consider placement in the Ombudsman program to be a permanent sentence, either. Instead, the goal is to get those students recovered academically and back in normal classes, if at all possible.

"Our goal for these students is to return them to the district on or closer to grade level," said Lucia. "We want to show students that what they are learning inside the classroom is what they will need and use outside the classroom."
Board member Dan Osman noted that he was impressed with the Ombudsman program when he saw it in action during a trip earlier this month to observe Philadelphia public schools.

"I was impressed. It worked really well," said Osman. "Just within this same school year, there was a phenomenal difference between what they came in at and what they were doing mid-semester."
The board will have their opportunity to adopt some or all of Carpenter’s presented projects when they reconvene tonight, February 20, for their regular board meeting. The board appeared cautiously optimistic about the district’s intended direction after Carpenter’s presentation.

"I was very concerned with the direction that Ervin was going to take," said board member Breman Anderson, Jr. "(But) it appears that we’re going to take that building from an eyesore to a valuable asset. I’m very comfortable with that."
As it relates to an expansion of early childhood education at Hickman Mills, board members Dan Osman and Eric Lowe came out in support of a renovated Ervin.

"I think this is a tremendous idea for our community," Lowe said. "For a long time, I heard complaints about students even arriving in kindergarten not prepared to learn."

"I’ve done the research between districts that do Pre-K and districts that don’t," Osman added. "The disparity between the two, you just don’t make that up, ever."
 
 
 


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Area Education Leaders Tackle Tough Issues


By Mary Wilson
The Grandview and South Kansas City Chambers of Commerce hosted area education leaders for a panel discussion at the February 7 legislative breakfast. Dr. Kirk Nooks, President of Longview Community College; Casey Klapmeyer, Associate Superintendent of School Improvement and Accountability of Hickman Mills School District; Dr. Steve Green, Superintendent of Kansas City Missouri Public Schools; Dr. Bob Bartman, Superintendent of Center School District; Ron Slepitza, President of Avila University; and Dr. Ralph Teran, Superintendent of Grandview School District (left to right in above photo), answered a series of questions brought forth.

What is the single biggest issue facing our local school districts? 

Teran: We have worked very hard for a number of years to increase our academic achievement. Coming off of a huge growth in the last several years, we’re in line for Accredited with Distinction when that is awarded if we can sustain that status. The big issue for the Grandview School District is keeping the momentum going, despite turbulence in finances and the piling on of expectations.

Slepitza: Forty-five percent of our students are Pell Grant eligible, which means that they have the least amount of resources available to them to afford college. Also, many students that come to college today are underprepared. How do we keep the costs down, at the same time providing the support necessary to be successful? The difference from our sticker price to our actual price is about fifty-two percent. What you see as our sticker price, it’s actually about half that. The challenge is to provide more for less at a time when aide is shrinking.

Bartman: I’d say poverty and mobility. We have a high number of kids on free and reduced lunch and the majority of those kids that come to school are from economically-distressed homes. They come to school behind. We see families that rotate between our districts and sometimes don’t get connected and miss a lot of school. If we had universal preschool in our South Kansas City schools, it would be a huge step towards helping erase that deficit.

Green: In the short term, our biggest challenge is surviving the current cross-hairs that we’re in with regard to our unaccredited status. In real time, we’re not unaccredited because we scored 84 points, but a two-year-old designation gave us unaccredited status, along with the transfer law that is in play as we speak. Our goal is to climb out of that situation, which we think we’re on course to do. Long term, the way we spin out of remediation and constant catch-up is universal pre-k and early childhood education. Even though we have the immediate threats that we must deal with, we also must strive to continue to increase student achievement and build on some of the things that we already have in place.
Klapmeyer: One of the things we’ve tackled this year is a real comprehensive look at where we’re at as a district. A product of that is the five-year strategic plan. One of the key pieces is when we look at our district, we’re in constant remediation, trying to catch kids up. We’ve also looked at a universal pre-K. We’ll be presenting to our Board to serve all of the four-year-olds within our boundaries starting next fall.

Nooks: One of the biggest challenges we are facing is that in terms of identity. We are looking at who we are, and the population we serve. We put together a strategic document that we are beginning to frame out, similar to Hickman Mills. We try to serve all the different populations with declining resources that are available to us. Longview specifically just had our largest retirement in our history, with over twenty people retiring last year representing close to 400 years of experience. We have a brand new leadership team in place.

What progress have you made towards reaccreditation?

 Green
: Under Missouri School Improvement Plan Cycle Number 5, which recalibrated everyone on a 140-point scale. Districts have to have at least 70 points, or 50 percent of that, to get into the accredited area. Last fall, we were at 27.5 points, or 19.6 percent. In August of 2013, we were at 84 points, or 60 percent. We think that given the progress we show in the previous year under the old model and the progress we show under the new model under the higher standards, we should not be in the unaccredited conversation. That being said, I think we’ve built the kind of system that allows us to monitor, measure, intervene and support students. We’ve shown growth in the past year. We’re on the progress side of things and we’re looking for more status, but at the end of the day we expect that we will exceed last years’ performance and we will continue to push for our case to be reclassified.

Klapmeyer: Under Cycle 5, we did move to the provisional category under the last review of our data from last year. Our Board came together over the summer and developed eight priorities, of which the very first one is to become a fully-accredited school district again. We developed a one-year plan that is in action right now that is really our guide. We’re looking at data constantly, measuring the academic successes of our students and getting them into the right programs or right interventions. The one-year plan is helping to guide us into that. It’s going to be a journey. We foresee some good progress and we’ve been very smart in what we’ve targeted this year in making sure our students at the secondary level are taking the right tests, and the right courses that prepare them for the end-of-course exams. We think we’ll see the results this year to move us forward.

What is your position on student transfers and how does that impact your district?
 Teran: It’s disastrous. They (Kansas City Public Schools) scored provisionally accredited as far as I’m concerned. Dr. Green has really brought in some quality people, and it’s to the point where they finally have something good and can’t recognize it even though it’s right in front of their face. There’s the ideal, and then there’s the pragmatic. For God’s sake, give them the provisional. I don’t get it, I just don’t get it. I’m less concerned about Kansas City. I’m more concerned about Hickman. I love what they’re doing, but I’m concerned because we share a border. I really want them to get accredited soon. Grandview has had the highest ratio of growth in Jackson County regular school districts, and we’ve got our plate full.

Bartman: I think it’s craziness, the transfer program. I think it’s an absolute tragedy to allow transfers from one district to another and the district that’s sending them pays the tuition and dilute the resources they have available to the students that remain in their district. Using St. Louis as an example, they had 25% of students transfer, and 75% decided to stay home. They’re going to go bankrupt because they don’t have enough money to attend to those that chose to stay. It’s just an archaic law that serves nobody well. With regards to Center, we’re going to follow the law…once we figure out what the law says. Our hope is that Kansas City will regain accreditation and continue on their upward track to improve student performance in their district.

Green: I’m planning for this to all become moot, but I also have to have alternative plans because politics can have a way of interfering with plans. I think it’s disastrous, and it’s a lose-lose proposition. We’re going to comply with the law. Thirteen of our thirty-one schools are fully accredited with six additional schools provisionally accredited. That leaves twelve that are unaccredited, and yet we’re unaccredited as a school district. The math doesn’t add up. We’ve had two years of a perfect audit, so if something doesn’t change and what’s about to happen is a district that is rapidly improving and financially stable will become financially unstable and be decimated.

Klapmeyer: All of us, I think on this panel, went into education because we have a passion for the students and educating with the district being the core of that community that it serves. One of the biggest things that comes out of this transfer conversation is that it’s very sad that students have become a pawn in a political game. It’s a sad situation when you have students in this back and forth. When you put a kid on a bus to travel an hour to another school, you lose complete ownership as a parent of improving and making a district better. I don’t see a positive outcome. We have eleven buildings that get report cards, and eight of our eleven are fully accredited. You get this imbalance. We hope that the state, with the plans that are out there now, gets this resolved. Right now, the plan that’s out there, we don’t believe is good for kids.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Paine's Pain Goes Away

By Paul Thompson
Just over two years ago, when 18-year old Lora Paine was rushed to Kansas City’s Research Medical Center with her blood pressure rising dangerously from what was eventually diagnosed as glomerulonephritis - an uncommon illness that causes the blood vessels in the kidney to inflame - her best friend Mary Ryan came to Lora’s bedside in support.

For 25 grueling months the disease attacked Lora’s kidneys, causing the organs to fail and her life to be flipped upside down. On January 8, 2014, Lora was back at Research Medical Center, and Mary was there again to support her. This time, Lora’s stay at the hospital was scheduled. She was there to get her new kidney; Mary’s kidney.

Within days, Lora was up and about her hospital room, feeling as well as she had since the diagnosis.
Creatinine is a form of waste created through activity, and it is normally filtered through the body by the kidneys. A creatinine level just below 1.0 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) of blood is considered normal. Creatinine levels of 2.0 mg/dl typically show kidneys operating below half capacity. The week of the surgery, Lora tested at 17.9 mg/dl with her failing kidneys. The first night after surgery, Lora said her levels had decreased to 13.0 mg/ dl. The third day following the operation, her levels were back to normal; she felt like she could run a mile. The renewed energy came as a shock.

“It was just a miraculous feeling,” said Lora. “I guess I’d kind of forgotten that you could feel that good, because it had been building up for so long.”

Mary and Lora met at the Blue River Bible Church as children, where Paine’s father Charles has been a pastor for the past 31 years. Although the Ryans moved to California for seven years as the two friends grew up, the families re-connected when they moved back to the metropolitan area. Lora said they were very close before the diagnosis, when her social life dissolved due to her condition and duties as a manager at McDonald’s; a job she maintained while undergoing dialysis for eight hours per day and visiting doctors’ offices with increased regularity. Lora was perhaps most caught up during this time, though, with searching for a kidney donor.

Mary wasn’t the first choice to provide Lora with a new functioning kidney. She wasn’t even the second. At first, Lora’s brother Joe was considered, but his urine tested too high in protein to serve as a match. Another potential donor proved to be a match, and she made it the majority of the way through the donation process before second-guessing the decision. A third candidate came forward claiming to have three working kidneys, until further tests showed that two of the three were failing. New candidates continued to be tested as matches, but after almost two years of bad luck and near-misses, Lora had begun to wonder when and how she might come across a compatible donor.

“Who between the ages of 18 and 22 is sitting around the house doing nothing, and has the time to take about three months to go to doctors’ appointments regularly, and then actually three weeks to
take off work to do a procedure like this?” Lora wondered at one point. “I thought that it was like finding a needle in a haystack.”

Mary had always wanted to help, and had asked Lora to have her kidneys tested for compatibility. Lora passed along the information, but didn’t get her hopes up right away. The two had always had what Lora described as a ‘funny’ relationship, always joking and cracking each other up.

“So I didn’t know how serious she was, in all reality,” said Lora.

This time, Mary was not joking around. In fact, knowing how heartbroken Lora had been after seeing her previous donors fail to pan out, Mary decided to anonymously go through testing to gauge the compatibility of her kidneys.

 “It’s not for other people,” said Mary. “That’s why I didn’t tell her that I went to go get the blood test. I waited until I found out it was a match. I didn’t want to do that again, to get her hopes up.”

Mary proved to be a match, and the operation went off without a hitch. Lora will have Mary’s kidney, nicknamed ‘baby girl’ by the pair, in her body for as long as it operates properly. Mary will forever live with only her remaining kidney, dubbed ‘big momma’ for its expected workload. Throughout this process, which offered every chance for the 21-year old Belton resident to change her mind, Mary’s conviction never wavered. To her, the sacrifice she was making was never even a choice.

“I’ve known Lora since we were three, so that kind of helped,” said Mary. “It’s not something that I really had to think about. When one of your friends is going through that, it’s automatic.”

Lora is still largely relegated to her Grandview home following surgery, building up immunities for her new organ. She can’t wait to run again, and she’s very much looking forward to enjoying the fruits and salads that were once a staple of her diet. Favorites such as kiwi, strawberries, and bananas are difficult for the kidney to process, and thus were strictly off limits for Lora over the course of her illness.

She doesn’t wear the appearance of someone who needs home confinement, though. Lora bounces around with enthusiasm and projects radiant joy in her barely-contained voice. She happily tells stories of her first forays into exercise after the surgery.

“Basically, the only thing I can do is go on walks. My dog and I went on a 3.2 mile walk last week,” said Lora excitedly. “That was like my main highlight because I finally had the energy to do something like that. I’d attempted numerous times, but I ended up just calling my mom, saying ‘come
pick me up, I can’t do it.’”

With Lora’s mental and physical health returning to pre-diagnosis levels, Mary is once again noticing the quirks in her friend’s personality. A return to normalcy has come hand in hand with a return to the same sort of funny relationship which made them such good friends in the first place.

“I’m glad that I can finally make her pee her pants again,” said Mary with a laugh.

Lora’s current high spirits stand in stark contrast to the relative mood of the past two years. Certainly, no one was laughing when Lora was rushed to the emergency room during that fateful Thanksgiving
week in 2011. Lora’s father Charles remembers the call with doctors that led to the ER visit, and still vividly recalls what the doctors said when they saw Lora’s symptoms first-hand.

“Her blood pressure had spiked so high when she was in the hospital the first time that she was at stroke-level,” said Charles. “They told me stroke-level, and that concerned me. It could have happened at any time.”

In addition to high blood pressure and low energy, Lora also dealt with an infection to hair follicles known as folliculitis, and a calcium-based inflammation of the joints known as pseudo-gout during this time. As Lora and her family went through the winding, circuitous process of finding a replacement kidney, she occasionally had trouble keeping her spirits up.

All around her though, there was support. McDonald’s helped throw a citywide fundraiser for their afflicted employee, and Lora’s family and friends purchased t-shirts and organized a prayer team on her behalf. Hand-written letters from sympathizers helped Lora get through the most difficult times.

“A lot of people at our church would write letters. It was so inspiring,” said Lora. “I mean, I love getting mail, and I was never getting mail before. Even in my more down times, I would get a letter, and it was just like a miracle to build me up.”

Also helping to build Lora up was the service dog her brother Joe had gotten her for Christmas in 2012. Named Chevy, the Catahoula Leopard dog was ten weeks old when it joined Lora’s world. For Chevy, that meant sitting right by Lora’s side through the night, as her owner went through hours of dialysis.

“She’s probably been what’s kept my spirits up the majority of the time,” acknowledged Lora.

Chevy wasn’t only a boon for moral support, though. When Lora’s dialysis machine would cause her body to painfully cramp up through the night, Chevy would rush to her parents’ room, imploring them to get up and help Lora massage away the pain.

“There were many times throughout that time where she would wake up crying out in the night,” said Charles of Lora. “I think Lora felt a lot of loneliness during this time, and I think that dog really helped to bring some peace.”

Chevy became a constant sight; at Lora’s side at home, riding along for car trips, or accompanying her on hospital visits. As the date for the kidney transplant approached, Chevy began to grow more and more concerned about Lora’s worsening condition. Eventually, Chevy stopped sleeping regularly at night as she waited anxiously by Lora’s side.

“She would stay really close to me,” said Lora of Chevy. “She had both of her paws on my chest and her head on my heart. She was worried about me.”

Thankfully for the Paines, Mary remained steadfast in her resolve. On January 8, she donated a kidney to Lora, and the healing process could finally begin. Physically, the results began to show almost immediately. The new kidney was not a magical cure-all, but it’s certainly a step in that direction for a 20-year-old who had almost forgotten how to live pain-free.

Emotionally, though, it was hard for Lora and her family to articulate just how impactful Mary’s sacrifice was to the family.

“It made us feel so encouraged. We’ve tried to express that to Mary countless times, how gratefulwe are for what she did,” said Charles. “Because we knew that it’s given Lora a new lease on life.”

“Her family’s really supported her through this, and they all just think so highly of her,” said Lora of Mary. “I do too, because I never dreamed she would come through like this.”

For her part, Mary is just thankful that she was able to help a friend in need. She says the entire experience has served to strengthen her faith.

“My relationship with Christ has gotten stronger,” says Mary. “He blessed me with two amazing kidneys. I guess I’m happier now, just because I was able to do that. I’m proud of my kidney.”

“They can’t even explain how thankful they are,” she adds. “That’s enough for me. Some things you can’t put into words, and I understand that.”