ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — At St. Francis High School just south of Milwaukee, a walk down the hallway during passing period takes a while for Principal Michael Lewandowski.
The stroll takes time because he always stops to say hello to his students, who he always refers to as “his kids."
“I say it all the time, 'These are my kids.' I tell parents all the time, 'You give me your greatest gift for 8 hours a day, I’m going to treat your kids like they are my kids,'” Lewandowski says as he walks past the lunchroom.
Despite his ever-positive attitude, Lewandowski is facing a personal struggle. He has Polycystic Kidney Disease, a degenerative condition which causes cysts to grow on his kidneys. While the condition has been lifelong, it is now getting harder to manage.
Doctors have determined it is time to begin the process of finding a donor.
“The cysts grow, kidneys get bigger, and the function gets lower," says Lewandowski. "My kidneys are approximately three to four times the size of a normal persons kidneys and are functioning at about 11%."
Recently, he decided to go public with his struggle by posting on Facebook about the need to find a donor. Since then, the post has been shared several hundred times, including on St. Francis area community Facebook forums, as well as by Mayor Ken Tutaj. Since then, Lewandowski says about 100 people have contacted him saying they are getting tested, or plan to be tested, to see if they are a match.
He says several teachers have gotten tested, and a number of former students have reached out.
“That is amazing that kids look at me that way,” Lewandowski says.
The search for a proper donor match remains ongoing. If a donor is found, he hopes to have the transplant surgery later this summer. If all goes well, Lewandowski says he only expects to miss about a month and a half of work while recovering.
If you are interested in being tested to see if you may be a match for Lewandowski, you can contact the Froedtert Hospital transplant team at (414) 805-0310. You can also visit their website to learn more about the kidney donation process.