Relief swept over Rob Maple and Jennifer Duncan, as well as the Norwich Elementary School family, when the doctors said on March 27 that Cathie Maple had an immediate positive reaction to a kidney transplant.

Relief swept over Rob Maple and Jennifer Duncan, as well as the Norwich Elementary School family, when the doctors said on March 27 that Cathie Maple had an immediate positive reaction to a kidney transplant.

It was the heart beating inside Derek Duncan, Jennifer's husband, which prompted him to donate a kidney in order to spare Cathie's life.

The Duncans knew the Maples because Jennifer and Cathie work together teaching fourth- and fifth-grade students at Norwich. They became extended family when Derek, a former Marine, offered to give Cathie a kidney last fall after it became known that the one given to her by her husband was failing and she needed a second transplant.

Karen Lehrer, the principal at Norwich Elementary School, said Derek could not imagine not giving a kidney to Cathie.

Derek asked Rob, a National Guardsman, several questions about what is involved before, during and after the procedure because he previously experienced the surgery. Cathie said she thinks Rob answered most questions, putting Derek's mind at ease.

"Rob showed him the little scar he has, the battle wound," she said, laughing.

Derek's kidney was a match and a transplant was scheduled for April, but as Cathie's condition worsened, the doctors moved the date up to March 27.

Derek had a chest X-ray on March 20 and the transplant proceeded.

"He is a remarkable human being," Cathie said of Derek. "He very much reminds me of my own husband. They have a lot of similar characteristics."

In the months before the transplant, the two families grew closer and the time gave the two teachers a chance to share information with their students so they would understand why Cathie was leaving her class before the end of the school year.

"The transplant was a great success and it started working immediately," said Jennifer, who could finally feel the excitement after worrying for days, weeks and months about the health of her husband and friend. "Praise God!"

Lehrer said Cathie's doctor told her that Derek gave her a "pristine" kidney.

The doctors, according to Lehrer, told Cathie and Rob that they dropped a Cadillac engine into a 1977 Volkswagen as they tried to depict the difference the new kidney will make.

"Cathie said, 'I don't know that I like being called a Volkswagen,'" Lehrer said.

Cathie's blood pressure, hemoglobin and other vitals improved dramatically after the transplant, according to Lehrer.

Derek was up and walking around the hospital the night of the transplant, said Jennifer.

"When I talked to Rob," Lehrer said on March 30, "he said that when Cathie learned that Derek was up, she said she was going to try and get up."

Derek was released from the hospital two days after the transplant.

"He came home and is following doctor's orders," said Lehrer, staying in close contact with her two teachers and their spouses.

By March 30, Cathie was on her feet.

"She is walking up and down the halls, taking her laps on her floor," said Lehrer.

Cathie is expected to be home by April 1, less than a week after the transplant.

The parents of students in Cathie and Jennifer's classes asked Lehrer prior to the surgery if she would let them know what was going on and she used the telephone service at the school to notify the parents and her staff that both Cathie and Derek did well after the surgery.

Then on March 30, she said, she paid a visit to the classrooms to reassure the students that their teacher was coming home soon.

"We are so excited," said Lehrer.

She opened an account for Cathie, allowing people to make donations to help defray the costs of a transplant. She said Cathie takes 25 pills a day and a transplant is not inexpensive. Donations can be sent to the school at 4454 Davidson Road.