Teacher saves life of her 5-year-old former student as she volunteers to be his liver donor

Dollita Okine June 07, 2024
Photo Credit: GMA

To his astonishment, 5-year-old Ezra’s former preschool teacher, Carissa Fisher, used a bright poster and a plush teddy bear to announce she would give him a portion of her liver.

Fisher’s mother, who went with her to surprise Ezra, his mother, Karen Toczek, and his family at their New York home, caught the moment on video. The 5-year-old child has suffered liver disease and scarring for the majority of his young life. His mother told GMA that neither she nor her son knew Fisher had applied to be a donor.

Toczek, a mom of eight and a foster mom of one, recounted, “I really struggled to wrap my head around that in that moment, just this is really happening. So it’s going to be hers. It’s her. She’s the one.” 

When 20-year-old Fisher saw Toczek’s post on Facebook in March regarding Ezra’s need for a liver donation, she said she instantly wanted to help. The 20-year-old had taught Ezra in preschool back in 2022. She said, “There wasn’t really a second thought.”

“I can’t sit there and watch a 5-year-old just not be able to do 5-year-old things. I would do it for any one of the kids [I teach],” Fisher added.

Fisher said she was surprised to learn she was a “perfect match” for Ezra. She remarked, “The odds of being that good of a match are slim to none … so it kind of came to a shock to me when I finally got that call. They’re like, ‘You were approved by the medical board and everything,’ and I was like, ‘Wow, this is actually happening.'”

During the surprise, Fisher showed Ezra a poster that asked him, “Hey Ezra! Would you like to share my liver?” and then gave him the option to check a Yes or No box. Fisher then guided Ezra as he took a marker and checked off the “Yes” box.

In July 2022, Toczek, a maternity nurse, adopted Ezra after he came to live with her family as a foster child. According to Toczek, he has struggled with his health from the outset, and his liver damage has mostly affected his sleep and energy levels.

Fisher said she hasn’t been apprehensive about the procedure, but rather eager and happy to help. She explained that physicians intend to take approximately 30% of her liver, after which Ezra’s damaged liver will be removed and replaced with a portion of her liver. And eventually, hopefully, her liver will regenerate and become functional, as would Ezra’s new liver.

By sharing Ezra’s experience, Fisher and Toczek hope to increase public awareness of living organ donation.

“One thing we hear over and over again, is that people didn’t realize you could be a living donor for a liver,” Toczek said. “I’ve honestly never considered donating an organ to somebody else so just that she’s willing to do it with no hesitation and she’s excited and just kind of can’t wait, it’s pretty incredible. Hopefully, that inspires other people.”

Fisher added, “I hope it inspires people to maybe put themselves on a living donor list and step out of their comfort zone. It seems scary at first. It was a little intimidating and scary but I hope it inspires people to just help other people.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: June 7, 2024

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