AKFIELD, WI - Natasha Fuller bounded off the school bus Thursday at Oakfield Elementary, ready for just about anything that comes her way.
The 8-year old had insisted on picking out her own outfit for the first day of school — a T-shirt paired with psychedelic leggings. She settled into Ashley Salter’s second grade classroom, greeting classmates after a summer apart.
Just down the hall, amidst the bustle and noise of kids and parents saying goodbye, third grade teacher Jodi Schmidt stood outside the door to her classroom. Students formed a semi-circle around her, eager and excited to begin a new school year.
This particular student and teacher share a special bond after a life-changing event this past spring brought them together. Schmidt donated one of her kidneys to Natasha, who had been waiting on and off for a donor kidney for several years.
The on and off part is because of frequent occurrences of Natasha being too sick to undergo a transplant, or riddled with yet another infection from one thing or another. Kidney dialysis was taking its toll on the youngster and her doctors at Children Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee said renal failure wasn’t far away.
Natasha was born with prune belly syndrome, a rare condition where abdominal muscles do not fully form. A serious complication is urinary tract disease.
But the worst is now behind the second grader, and she is expected to live a full, healthy life, said her grandmother Chris Burleton. Since the May transplant, split between Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Natasha has gained 13 pounds and feels so good she sings day and night.
“And I mean all day, so we are pretty sure she wants to be a singer,” Burleton said. “She is so active now she couldn’t wait to get back to school.”