Originally published in People - September 20, 2021
A Missouri teacher is giving one of her students the gift of time as the 9-year-old girl awaits several life-saving organ transplants.
Brittany Perschbacher has only met Hayley Justason through e-learning, but that hasn't stopped the Missouri Virtual Academy teacher from donating her plasma to the second-grader, NBC affiliate KSDK reported.
"If any of my students needed anything, I would do what I could for them. Hayley needed me, so here I am," she told the outlet. "If I didn't do this, would Hayley still be here today? I don't think about that because it breaks my heart."
According to a GoFundMe page set up on Hayley's behalf, she was born with two holes in her heart, which has led to numerous health complications and 15 surgeries throughout her life.
Today, she is on an organ donation list — hoping to receive a new liver, kidney and heart —but will have to pay for any transplants out of pocket since her family has "maxed out her medical insurance," per the fundraiser, which has raised over $1,000 as of Monday.
The devastating news soon reached Perschbacher, who lost her grandfather to COVID-19 last year, according to KSDK. Around the same time, the teacher also learned about how donating plasma could prolong — and possibly save — someone's life.
Knowing that Hayley was in need, Perschbacher quickly stepped up and has spent an hour and a half each month donating her plasma, KSDK reported.
"It meant so much," Shelley told the outlet. "Brittany was giving us another day, another minute, another hour.
In November, Perschbacher hopes to do more for Hayley by getting tests done to see if kidney donation is an option, according to KSDK.
"I told Shelley, 'If she can accept my plasma, I know you can do living donors for kidneys. Adults can donate to kids. Let's try to get me tested because if my plasma works, then maybe just maybe my kidney will work,'" Perschbacher told the outlet.
"We're bonded for life and I'm not giving up on her," the teacher added. "I'm willing to do whatever it takes to help this girl, and the crazy thing is we've never even met in person, so it just shows the kind of bond and relationship you can get with somebody."
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For the Justasons, the offer means more than they can ever express. "There's never gonna be enough words to say 'thank you,' " Shelley told KSDK.
Those interested in donating to Hayley's GoFundMe page can do so here.
To learn more about Missouri Virtual Academy, visit mova.k12.com