After a decades-long battle with kidney disease and a year-long search for an organ donor, beloved Wilton High School counselor Daniel (Dann) Pompa recently learned a donor match has been identified.
Pompa confirmed the GOOD news Wednesday, in an interview with GOOD Morning Wilton. His surgery is scheduled for April 20.
In December 2020, GMW reported on the effort by three Wilton High School students to assist Pompa in his search for a kidney donor match. That effort, and more specifically a video made by the students, proved to be the key to finding a match.
As Pompa’s need for a transplant became more and more urgent, WHS senior Jake Arnowitz and juniors Eli Ackerman and Tyler Casey decided to help by creating a video to generate more awareness of the donor search. The 11-minute video, which was shared on social media and YouTube, included heartfelt testimonials by students and staff about Pompa’s significance to the community and provided details on the screening process for determining a match.
According to Pompa, Yale reported they had many inquiries from people who had seen the video.
Wilton’s Dave Cote was one of those people. His wife, Meppy Cote, had texted Dave a link to the video and urged him to watch it. He saw the telephone number of the Yale transplant center in the video, and called to get the process started.
“The boys get all the credit,” said Cote.
The multi-step screening process took until Feb. 28 to complete. After a series of tests, imaging, evaluations by a team of doctors and meetings with various other professionals, Cote was ultimately approved to be a donor for Pompa.
Yale informed Pompa that a match had been identified, but gave Cote a chance to decide whether or not he wished to remain anonymous. But with Wilton being a close-knit town, Cote realized his identity would not remain a secret for long, and is now comfortable talking about his decision.
In yet another example of his generosity, Cote felt it was the boys who created the video who should have the opportunity to tell Pompa who the donor was.
They arranged a Zoom meeting with Pompa, and devised a game of 20 Questions so Pompa would have to guess the identity of the donor. Cote was in the Zoom meeting, shielding his identity at first.
Pompa played along but curiosity eventually got the best of him in what was surely a remarkable Zoom session.
Though previously not well known to each other, Pompa and Cote have at least a slight connection. Pompa said he recalled meeting Cote at charity/fundraising events in the past, and they have mutual friends through a relative of Cote.
Pompa plans to keep working right up until the surgery. In addition to counseling, he teaches a peer leadership class, and is involved in numerous clubs and activities at the school, including the St. Baldrick’s Foundation club, PeerVention, Socks for Soldiers, Bon Ami, and others. Pompa is also widely known for his work in support of veterans.
His gratitude to Cote and the boys is almost beyond words. “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get the words ‘thank you’ to mean anything more,” Pompa said.
Pompa said he has given the boys a copy of the book, One Can Make A Difference: How Simple Actions Can Change the World. Now out of print (but Pompa was able to find on Amazon), the book is one Pompa has given to students before when he has seen them do something impactful.
He marveled at the fact that the video created by the students proved so instrumental in finding a donor. “I don’t even know how to thank them,” he said. “They have done an act that is giving me a chance to continue on in this world.”
See the video that touched so many hearts here:
This video was shared by the creators with permission from Mr. Pompa and the Wilton High School administration.