Originally published to Ladue News on February 24, 2022
Hayley Justason turned 10 on Feb. 1. It’s a milestone birthday that Justason, who is critically ill, reached because of the help of her Kimmswick teacher, Brittany Perschbacher.
The educator with Creve Coeur-based Missouri Virtual Academy regularly donates plasma to help save the life of her special student, who has endured 15 surgeries since being born at 27 weeks and needs a triple organ transplant: heart, liver and kidney, says Hayley’s mother, Shelley Justason.
“This means the world to me, that I can give the gift of life,” Perschbacher says, noting that she and Hayley’s family call the 10-year-old their “Wonder Woman.” “I wanted a way to honor my grandpa, Richard Kiel, [who died due to complications from COVID-19 in 2020,] and I know he would be so proud of me. Another family gave my grandpa the chance to survive by donating [convalescent plasma], and I wanted to pay it forward.”
Perschbacher says she would do anything for her students. So when she was a match for Hayley’s rare blood type, she didn’t hesitate to help. “Hayley has a lot of life ahead of her and deserves every chance at that life,” Perschbacher says. “If something as easy as donating and giving two hours of my time helps to keep her alive, it is 100 percent worth it. Every child deserves a fighting chance.”
Hayley calls Perschbacher an amazing teacher, friend, supporter and plasma donor. “Without [Ms. Perschbacher], I wouldn’t have a second, another minute, another hour or another day,” Hayley says. “My family would not get to see another milestone in my life – [like] turning double-digits on Feb. 1. She has helped me learn to read … to believe in myself … [and] I am still soaring like Wonder Woman.”
Staying positive despite her multiple diagnoses, Hayley lives by her own motto: “Life is like a box of crayons – all different, but in the end, we all color the same beautiful picture.” The 10-year-old says she also is thankful for MOVA, which allows her to do her schooling from home: “Without MOVA, I may not have a fighting chance. COVID can set me back badly. The risk of getting sick is not good.”
Perschbacher hopes others see the importance of donating platelets and blood. “There is especially a shortage right now, and it is such a quick and simple way to give to others,” she says. “Hayley is just one of so many that are fighting each day. Help save a life and donate. You never know what life you can save.”
To learn more about Missouri Virtual Academy, visit https://mova.k12.com/