Students help Washington teacher find kidney donor

A les­son in kind­ness: An­drea Seitchik (second from left) smiles with Na­tion­al Hon­or So­ci­ety stu­dents. The George Wash­ing­ton High School teach­er was forced to take a leave of ab­sence in Novem­ber after be­ing dia­gnosed with stage 5 kid­ney fail­ure, but her fam­ily and friends are us­ing the latest com­mu­nic­a­tion tools to help find a donor and keep her con­nec­ted to oth­ers.

After just five years in­to her new po­s­i­tion as a busi­ness and mar­ket­ing teach­er at George Wash­ing­ton High School, An­drea Seitchik was forced to take a leave of ab­sence when a 15-year-old dis­ease caught up with her. 

A Lang­horne res­id­ent and teach­er of 25 years, Seitchik was dia­gnosed with kid­ney dis­ease a dec­ade and a half ago. Now, her friends, fam­ily and even former stu­dents are help­ing her find a donor - of­ten us­ing the same sort of skills she teaches. 

Seitchik kept quiet about the dis­ease for years as she taught ju­ni­or high and took classes to re­ceive her cer­ti­fic­a­tions to teach a broad­er range of classes at the high school level. She didn’t show any symp­toms and didn’t want to be treated any dif­fer­ently, she said. But the “secret” got out when her con­di­tion worsened dra­mat­ic­ally last year. 

“Over the past year, I could feel a dif­fer­ence in my body,” ad­mit­ted Seitchik. “I couldn’t do the things I used to do, but I would do them any­way.”

Fi­nally, late last year, she was dia­gnosed with stage 5 kid­ney fail­ure. It’s the point where the kid­neys can no longer re­move waste and tox­ins, caus­ing these sub­stances to build up in the per­son’s blood­stream.

Where­as most people’s health slowly de­teri­or­ates, Seitchik said she plat­eaued for a while be­fore tak­ing a sud­den turn for the worse: “I got so sick I could barely move my arms.”

She stopped work­ing in Novem­ber, went on dia­lys­is and was fi­nally eli­gible to get on the donor list for a kid­ney trans­plant. But, the wait of­ten takes up to five years un­less someone donates one dir­ectly to her. 

Now, Seitchik and her fam­ily are us­ing the latest com­mu­nic­a­tion tools to help find a donor and also keep the ded­ic­ated teach­er con­nec­ted to oth­ers.

Her daugh­ters Lexi, 23, and Madis­on, 17, cre­ated a Face­book page that now has more than 1,300 “likes” as people pub­li­cize her search. And, Seitchik still par­ti­cip­ates in school events like Na­tion­al Hon­or So­ci­ety meet­ings us­ing the iPhone app Fa­ce­Time.

“Thank God for so­cial me­dia, I get to keep in touch with every­body,” she laughed.

But, all that new tech­no­logy hasn’t com­pletely re­placed old-fash­ioned solid­ar­ity and pub­li­city.

To help raise aware­ness of their moth­er’s search, Lexi and Madis­on cre­ated Fight for Andi brace­lets that they’re cur­rently selling at Ne­sham­iny High School, where Madis­on at­tends. 

They’ll be on sale soon at Wash­ing­ton, too, but not be­fore a new ad­di­tion to the school’s dress code. 

Earli­er this month, prin­cip­al Gene Jones ap­proved a Fight for ANDI shirt as part of the school uni­form. Cre­ated by Seitchik’s mar­ket­ing club at the school, the shirts bear the name of the school on the front along with Fight for ANDI, and “O Pos­it­ive” on the back. 

The Seitchiks have also re­ceived help from former stu­dents like Corey Sharp and Jaitin Brahmbhatt. A former hon­or stu­dent at Wash­ing­ton, Sharp said that once he and Brahmbhatt found out about their former teach­er they im­me­di­ately wanted to help.  

“She lit up the classroom with her smile and her en­ergy and all the things she did,” he said. “Now that she’s in need, it’s our turn to give back to her.” 

Sharp and Brahmbhatt star­ted call­ing ra­dio and tele­vi­sion sta­tions, and soon Seitchik’s story was fea­tured on NBC 10 news and FOX 29’s Good Day Phil­adelphia. 

“If 10,000 people as op­posed to 2,000 know about it, you’re in­creas­ing your chances of find­ing a donor,” said Sharp.

Already, the Seitchiks have heard from a few people who are cur­rently be­ing tested to see if they’re a match. And, ac­cord­ing to Lexi, the most sur­pris­ing, and amaz­ing, sup­port has come from people they nev­er saw com­ing. 

“It really helps when people mes­sage from the Face­book page,” she said. “We get people - total strangers - who say, ‘I’m so sorry to hear about your mom. Is there any­thing we can do to help?’ ”

And, as all those people come to her aid, Seitchik be­comes more and more con­fid­ent things will get back to nor­mal.

“I can’t wait to get back to work. I miss the kids,” she said. “I’m thank­ful for every­one who has sup­por­ted me, and I look for­ward to get­ting stronger each day.” ••

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