The first time Fifth Judicial District Attorney Heidi McCollum mentioned donating her kidney to her old high school teacher, she said it so casually that Dave and Susan Scott weren’t sure she was serious.
“Right there in front of the courthouse, she just said it so plain, ‘I’ll give you my kidney, Dave,’” Susan Scott recounted Tuesday.
The couple, both retired teachers who put in more than three decades at Eagle Valley High School in Gypsum, were hopeful — Dave Scott, 65, was in kidney failure and needed a living donor; he likely wouldn’t live through the five-to-seven year wait for a kidney from a deceased donor.
But then months passed, and they didn’t hear another word from McCollum, who serves as the elected top prosecutor for Eagle, Summit, Lake and Clear Creek counties. They’d early on promised each other not to push anyone into donating, even as Dave dropped weight and grew frail. Eventually, they figured McCollum had changed her mind.
She hadn’t. Instead, the 51-year-old attorney was undergoing a battery of tests to see if she was a compatible donor for Dave Scott, who’d for years taught with her father at Eagle Valley High. She’d never been Dave’s student, though she’d been in Susan’s classes and her brother was coached by Dave. As weeks passed, McCollum passed test after test.
“With the result of every test I got back, I got more and more excited, thinking maybe I can do something, maybe he can get better,” McCollum said.
The Eagle Valley community as a whole rallied around the Scotts to try to find Dave a kidney; an online fundraiser pulled in $23,000 to help him pay for care and travel, and by Susan’s count, some 22 people filled out the paperwork to see if they could donate their kidneys.
Eagle Valley High principal Gregory Doan said the Scotts are “pillars” in the community, with “deep, deep community roots.”
“It’s not just about blood family, but the kind of community you’re in,” he said.
Two former teachers at the school recently died, from COVID-19 and from cancer, and the community didn’t want to lose another, McCollum said.
“I’m the lucky one who got all the way through,” she said.
She’s a match, and the transplant surgery is scheduled for Monday. She’s planning to take four weeks off to recover after the operation.
“It’s a miracle,” Dave said. “I’m feeling very humbled.”
To him and his wife, McCollum’s donation speaks to the lasting impact educators can have on their students.
“I knew from the moment I met her as a student she would do amazing things,” Susan said of McCollum.
She just didn’t expect it to be this.
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