6-year-old MN girl gets new kidney thanks to her teacher

A 6-year-old girl from southern Minnesota is about to undergo a life-changing kidney transplant, thanks to an amazing chain of kidney donations that started with her teacher.

From watching Parker Lintelman, a spunky, active little girl, play outside with her cousin, you would have no idea that, inside, her kidneys are functioning at 10 percent.

"Because she was born with underdeveloped kidneys, we've never known her at 100 percent," said her mom, Elizabeth Lintelman.

Her parents didn't know anything was wrong until Parker was 4 years old and they noticed her putting odd things in her mouth.

"Dirt, Play-Doh, markers, all sorts of things. So, it was one of those things where we had questions about it," said her dad, Seth Lintelman.

Questions led to a diagnosis of stage four chronic kidney disease. At the time, Parker’s kidney function was 18 percent, which was low enough to be evaluated for the transplant list.

"As a parent, I think your initial gut reaction is, ‘Take mine. I will give you whatever you need.’ And it's heart-wrenching to not be able to do anything. I'm not a match. (Seth’s) not a match," Elizabeth Lintelman said.

So they reached to their community in Fairmont, a few miles from the Iowa border. Initially, doctors with the University of Minnesota thought Parker's preschool teacher, Kim Miller, was a match, but she turned out to not be the most compatible donor. 

"They offered Kim the opportunity to be a living donor and provide her a voucher, which would put Parker at the top of the list when Parker was ready for that kidney. And that's what Kim did," Elizabeth Lintelman said.

Thanks to that selfless act, in September, the week of Parker's sixth birthday, she got the best present of all.

"[The transplant coordinator] called, and they were like, ‘We found her a perfect match,’" Seth Lintelman said.

On Wednesday, at M Health Fairview Masonic Children's Hospital, Parker will undergo a kidney transplant from a donor in San Diego. As her parents watch how energetic Parker is even before the surgery, they're excited to see what 100 percent kidney function looks like.

"She loves jumping in mud puddles. She loves playing with her big sister. She does jazz and ballet and tap, and she's very active. So, it'll be interesting to see how much more active she can be," Elizabeth Lintelman said.

Their family slogan has become "If you have a pair, why not share," and they hope even one person who hears Parker's story will be inspired to get tested to see if they can become kidney donors. 

"It only takes one person to change a life," Elizabeth Lintelman said.

Parker will likely need a new kidney again in 15 to 20 years, so her parents also plan to donate their kidneys as well, so she will able to get more vouchers for future transplants.

A fundraiser is planned to support Parker and the Lintelman family on Nov. 5 at Buddy Boy Fine Barbeque in Minnetrista.

Are you interested in donating? The National Kidney Foundation says if you have two healthy kidneys, you may be able to donate one to improve or even save someone else’s life. Donors must be at least 18 years old, and some centers require a donor to be 21 or a little older. Certain medical conditions could prevent you from being a living donor, including uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, HIV, hepatitis, or acute infections. Click here to learn more.

If you need help getting the conversation started, you can call the foundation’s hotline at (855) 653-2273 or email them at nkfcares@kidney.org.

To follow Parker's journey, you can visit their CaringBridge site by clicking here. A GoFundMe has also been set up to help the family.