The first three, algebra, geometry, economics are learned in school. The last one, compassion, is learned along the way to adulthood. Maybe at home. Maybe at a place of worship. Maybe, even, in school. This is the case with Tom Murtaugh, he mastered all four. The greatest of all, compassion, led him to save a life.
Forty-years ago while attending Lafayette Jefferson High School, Murtaugh met a teacher, Dave Knott, who had a profound impact on his life. Over a three-year period, Knott taught him algebra, geometry, and economics. Murtaugh considered Knott as a phenomenal teacher. After graduation, they stayed in touch and often ran into each other in their picturesque hometown of Lafayette, Georgia — a diverse city incorporated in 1835 and often called the “Queen City of the Highlands” for its Honeybee Festival.
Rachael Krause wrote about the friendship forged between teacher and student in a recent article for WMAZ Channel 13 in Macon, Georgia, “When I was in high school, I had Mr. Knott, as I called him at that time, for both [honors] mathematics and economics. He was a phenomenal teacher and obviously left an impression,” Murtaugh said. “He truly is an icon in this community. I mean, he had very successful teams as a football coach, and he obviously taught a lot of people and left impressions on a lot of people in this community. People know him, people remember him.”
Later in life, Knott was stricken with a kidney disease and received his first organ transplant. But in 2018, after his transplanted organ failed, he needed a second kidney transplant. He spent his days sick and on dialysis for hours at a time. Krause quoted Knott in her article, “At that point in time, I had undergone five months of dialysis, which is just awful. And I was debating, is this going to be the rest of my life where I have to do this?”
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Knott didn’t know his daughter made a post to social media in hopes of finding her dad a donor. Krause wrote, “Call it fate or Facebook, Murtaugh immediately jumped in to start the testing with IU Health. But he didn’t tell Knott, not for months until he could be sure he was able to be a match for his former teacher.”
It was compassion for Murtaugh who said, “. . . it just kind of hit me and it’s like you know, I’m healthy, I could do this.” He was a match, while he felt somewhat nervous, Murtaugh said he knew he was doing the right thing.
Knott’s transplant was scheduled for March 29, 2019. The day arrived. While the hospital team prepped the former student and teacher for surgery, they touched base via text, “[Murtaugh] would text me every once in a while, and say, ‘You’re not getting nervous, are you? You’re not going to change your mind?’ And I said, ‘No, I’m not going to change my mind,’” in a quote obtained by Krause.
The transplant was a huge success. Knott’s kidney creatinine levels went from almost fatal to nearly normal within a two-day window. Knott gained not only a new kidney but a new family. The Knott and Murtaugh families are united through the gift of life made possible by the compassion of a bright and former student for his former phenomenal teacher.
Three years later, they continue to share an exceptional bond. They told Krause during the interview, “And it is just great to see that he has his life back, that he’s able to do everything he wants to do, and his family is able to enjoy his company and it’s just, it’s touching,” Murtaugh said. “I guess I thank him every day. I thank him as often as I can, but it’s never going to be enough, I can’t do enough to thank him for what he did. He’s the hero here,” Knott said. “I’m just the participant.”
Anyone can register to become an organ donor at RegisterMe.org. Living donors and organ recipients can contact National Foundation for Transplants when they need help raising funds for out-of-pocket transplant-related expenses. We exist to help transplant patients through their most difficult times get to their most wonderful times. You can support their transplant journey with a financial gift.