‘That’s pretty special’: Superintendent donates kidney to teacher in need

Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 9:44 AM HST
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DANVERS, Mass. (WBZ) – When a Massachusetts teacher needed a kidney to stay alive, the superintendent of the school donated one of hers.

Dave Collins is a beloved teacher at Essex Tech in Danvers but last year he was in the worst shape.

After decades of living with kidney disease, Dave Collins was in end-stage renal failure and needed every-other-day dialysis to stay alive.

“Because I’m a bricklayer. I’m a mason. And I’d be up working with the kids, laying bricks and I’d have to sit down. I couldn’t even pick my head up,” he said.

His daughter, Shelby Collins, made it her mission to find her dad a kidney.

“It broke me to see him in the pain, on being unable to live the life I know he was capable of living,” she said.

The perfect match came as a total surprise. Dave and Shelby Collins’ boss, the superintendent of Essex Tech, decided to make the sacrifice.

Heidi Riccio said she made the donation because it was the right thing to do.

“And my parents always taught me to do what is right, not what is easy,” she said.

Riccio got the green light and called her coworker and friend to change his life.

“Yeah, she said, ‘Pack your bags.” I go, ‘What?’ She goes, ‘Yeah, we’re going to Mass General together,” Dave Collins said. “I go, ‘You’re kidding me.’ I said, ‘I don’t believe it til it’s time.’ And it was time.”

The two scheduled the transplant during time off over a February school vacation.

“The living donor program at Mass General is the best. That’s why we live in Massachusetts,” Riccio said. “I had the surgery on Tuesday. I was home on Wednesday, and I went back to work remotely on Monday.”

Riccio said she was inspired by the love for her own daughters to do this for another parent.

“It’s like a fairytale really,” Dave Collins said. “Then to have my boss donate the kidney. That’s pretty special, to give me a part of her.”

Shelby Collins said she is thankful her father gets the chance to live a longer life.

“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,” she said.

Dave Collins isn’t even taking the rest of the school year off. He’s planning to be back in the classroom after a vacation in April.