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Teacher gives student a lifesaving surprise: 'We have a special bond'

The parents of a 4-year-old Wisconsin girl were distraught as they scoured the country in hopes of finding a kidney donor match to help save her life.

It turned out the answer to their prayers was right in their daughter's classroom, only they just didn't know it yet.

Beth Battista, a teacher at Kids Express Learning Center in Madison, had heard of the plight of Lyla Carreyn, who has been on dialysis for 12 hours a day after being diagnosed a year ago with microscopic polyangiitis (MPA), a rare autoimmune disorder.

Battista, 36, decided to get herself tested to see if she was a match. When doctors confirmed she indeed had the matching antibodies for Lyla, she decided to surprise Lyla's mother, Dena Carreyn, with the news.

Battista had Dena come to the school under the guise of needing help to train a new teacher about Lyla's condition. She then surprised her with the news that she would be donating her kidney to save Lyla in a heartwarming scene captured on video by the school.

Courtesy of Dena Carreyn
Lyla Carreyn, 4, will be getting a healthy new kidney from her preschool teacher after battling a life-threatening autoimmune disorder.

"Looking back on it now, the whole thing is surreal,'' Carreyn told TODAY. "It took a minute to sink in, and once it did, I was just so overwhelmed. I felt very similar to the day when my daughter was born because it was that sense of elation and being so excited and relieved.

"Beth is and always will be a part of our family. A piece of her, literally and figuratively, will always be with us."

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Battista, who has been a teacher for 11 years and has two children of her own, had gotten the blessing of her husband and parents before deciding to go forward with her decision.

"When we got to the meeting, I was shaking,'' Battista told TODAY. "I get choked up just talking about it. It was so powerful to be able to tell her that I'm the answer."

Courtesy of Beth Battista
Dena Carreyn, pictured with Lyla, considers Battista a member of their family after her selfless sacrifice.

Lyla's ordeal began in October 2015 when she was lethargic after sleeping for three hours at school, so her parents took her to a local urgent care facility. Within minutes she was being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance with renal failure.

During a biopsy two days later, her lungs hemorrhaged and she went into a coma for three weeks.

"She woke up before Thanksgiving and wanted to know when the Halloween party was,'' Carreyn said. "It was really emotional."

Lyla was not in Battista's class at that time, but Battista had become aware of her plight.

"There was just something inside that told me to get tested,'' she said. "I just knew that I was going to be her match. It was meant to be."

The day after Battista surprised her mom with the news, Lyla came into school and gave her a big hug.

"She holds my hand all the time,'' Battista said. "We have a special bond."

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The surgery is scheduled for February 2017 at the University of Wisconsin Hospital (the doctors need Lyla's autoimmune disorder to be in a stage where it hasn't been active for at least a year as a result of medication).

Battista is hoping their story can spread the word about living organ donation, while Dena and her family are forever grateful that she has decided to help their daughter.

"We were starting to feel desperate,'' she said. "I'm not a big believer in fate, but there are so many things that happened to make this come together that just something special in the universe has to have happened."

Follow TODAY.com writer Scott Stump on Twitter.

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