Teacher gives lesson on how to help student in need

An instructor at charter school called AXL Academy in Aurora is going the extra mile to help a student in need.

Finn Lanning is doing more than just teach math. He’s in the process of becoming a parent to a 13-year old student named Damien.

The 7th & 8th grade math teacher said he made that decision because Damien needs a new kidney.

“It’s challenging as a teacher to show up and do everything you can for your students,” he said, “but when one of those students is dealing with something exceptional, it’s hard to look the other way.”

Lanning told reporters that in order for Damien to have access to a new kidney, he needs a stable housing environment.

He’s been in foster care, moving from home to home.

“It’s difficult for a typical 13-year-old in foster care to find a place to call a permanent home, and it’s especially difficult for a kid with exceptional medical needs,” Lanning said. “By providing a home to Damien, it allows him to access the medical treatment he needs to live.”

The math teacher said Damien was born with a kidney disease, caused by an autoimmune disorder.

The 7th grader uses a CPAP machine to help with sleep apnea, and a dialysis machine to clean his blood every night.

“It’s kind of draining because I get tired,” Damien said.

When asked what it’s like living with his teacher, the 13-year-old replied, “It’s pretty cool. I get picked on at school, because it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s your math teacher, that’s really weird,’ but I’ve got my own math tutor.”

Lanning said becoming an instant parent has been “a wild ride.”

“It’s a 24-hour commitment,” he said. “It’s been exhausting and wonderful, and maybe the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

Damien said he’s adjusting very well to his new environment.

“In foster care you jump from house to house, and that’s kind of hard because you usually only have a bag full of clothes, but here, I have a good amount of clothes and my own stuff and my own room,” he said.

A kidney call awaits

Earlier this week, Damien received a call that a new kidney was available.

Lanning said they got up early, went to the hospital and prepared Damien for surgery, only to find out that the donor kidney was damaged and had a clot.

“It was a difficult circumstance,” he said.

Lanning said they’re recovering from the disappointment and are excitedly waiting for the next call.

In the meantime, they’re busy moving to a new, larger apartment.

They’ve set up Damien’s medical equipment in his new room and are awaiting the arrival of furniture.

A desire for junk food

Because of his kidney disease, Damien is on a restrictive diet.

He said once he gets a new kidney, he plans to add junk food to his menu, specifically, “7-Eleven nachos.”

“I want to eat a lot of junk food,” he said.


Lanning said because Damien is in the foster care system, Medicaid covers his medical care.

“As we move toward adoption, his ability to access that could become more difficult,” Lanning said.

The teacher added that the county hasn’t been able to provide any financial assistance, so he has exhausted his savings paying for Damien’s supplies and special diet needs.

Lanning set up a GoFundMe account to help with expenses and future needs.

“I’d like to provide some opportunities for him,” he said. “He’s missed out on a lot of things in his life because of the struggles and challenges that he’s faced. He has big dreams. He wants to be a chef and he wants to travel and do the kinds of things that he hasn’t been able to do, so I’d love to be able to provide him some opportunities that other kids have.”