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Evanston Social Worker Faces Termination After Donating Kidney

Social worker Dan Coyne may lose his job due to Chicago Public School's residency requirements after donating a kidney to his favorite cashier. He meets with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel today.

Instead of giving Jewel cashier Myra de la Vega his Preferred Card, Evanston resident Dan Coyne gave her a kidney.

Now, he may lose his job because of his generosity.

On Tuesday, after receiving the Spirit of Evanston award, Coyne told a crowd of more than 200 that he was meeting with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel today to discuss his future employment with Chicago Public Schools. He said he wasn't sure if he'll still be employed due to violating the school's residency policy, which came to light last year.

Coyne, now 52, received national attention for his kidney donation, mainly because he didn't know de la Vega well, but enjoyed her personality enough to go out of his way so he could get rung up by her when shopping at Jewel.

Yet despite his gesture, Chicago Public Schools found a problem: The story revealed that Coyne has lived in Evanston for more than 27 years, violating CPS's controversial requirement that all employees must live in the city so they can contribute to the schools via tax.

The donation

For more than 18 years Coyne and his wife would make small talk with their favorite cashier, but when they noticed de la Vega wasn't her usual self -- she was looking ill -- they asked what was wrong.

It turned out de la Vega had renal failure and needed a kidney transplant, but none of her family was a match. The cashier told Coyne about her eight hour dialysis treatments, constant exhaustion  and Coyne was moved.

While he didn't know much about the kidney donating process, Coyne offered to help.

It was a long shot -- 1 in 4,000 -- that Coyne's kidney would be a positive match, he said on Tuesday.

Fortunately for de la Vega, he was.

The Fallout

Once the story broke Coyne was quickly dubbed a hero, and his employer, Pershing East Magnet School in Chicago, declared March 23 "Dan Coyne Day" to honor his deed.

The social worker had made no attempts to hide his address to CPS, according to the Chicago Tribune. Then CPS Chief Ron Huberman sent Coyne a notice, stating he must move to Chicago by July 31 or face dismissal.

One year later and Coyne is still dealing with the consequences of his kidney donation.

Coyne was honored Tuesday by Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and Northwestern University president Morton Schapiro, who presented the award to Coyne at the second annual Evanston Mash.

De la Vega, who was also present during the ceremony, called Coyne her "angel."

"I couldn't believe it, that there was somebody like him that was living on Earth that could do that," de la Vega said. "I think he is an angel living on Earth. You can say I'm corny but that's how I regard him."

Be sure to check back later for an update on Coyne's status.

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Skokieguy September 14, 2011 at 11:45 AM
The article states "Roughly three years later, Coyne is still dealing with the consequences of his kidney donation.". That is a misstatement. Consequences of his kidney donation might include medical complications, fatigue, etc. But what is discussed in the article is strictly an employment problem. He has been violating his employer's policy for 27 years, long before he ever thought about donating a kidney. None of this diminishes his extraordinary generosity in donating a kidney, but the two situations are unrelated. Coyne can easily fix the situation by moving. If he chooses not to, yes, he should lose his job which will create an opening for a teacher that does follow policy.
victoria smith September 14, 2011 at 12:04 PM
I think that he should keep his job. He must be good at his job or he wouldn't still be working . How did they fail to not notice that he had been living in Evanston for 27 years? Do they really need to put another person in the unemployment line? At 52 it will be difficult to find another job. We all know how that goes....hire someone younger with less pay. Loose all of his benifits and health insurance. Move to Chicago? Try and sell his house, the exspense of moving. If he has kids that means uprooting them to a different school etc....I understand what you are saying Skokie guy, but I think that they should make an exception. Besides, we need good teachers to keep teaching our kids. It's a dumb rule!
Jimmy September 14, 2011 at 02:25 PM
Actually Skokie guy the rule was changed on November 26 1986 and they've made exceptions such as recent top Chicago school officials that live in Winnetka. My personal opinion if you want better quality teachers like you get in the north shore the rule needs to change. He saved a life. In my eyes he's a hero.
edgewater September 14, 2011 at 02:37 PM
The same rule exists for police and firefighters. They do not know the people whose lives they save. They are heros also! Sorry buddy! Move or get a new job! You have gotten away with breaking the policy for years, you now got caught. One good deed does not wipe away 27 years of lying.
Jimmy September 14, 2011 at 05:01 PM
Sad you think that half the people that work for Chicago actually live in Chicago. Realistically Evanston and Chicago are neighbors. Drive down Sheridan or ridge boarders touch. So how does this work- http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-06-22/news/chi-cps-may-grant-residency-waiver-for-highranking-official-20110622_1_waiver-cps-residency Read this article that was posted earlier this year on how ridicoulus this law really is - http://www.chicagonow.com/district-299-chicago-public-schools-blog/2010/03/should-chicago-teachers-have-to-live-in-chicago/
Ann September 14, 2011 at 11:15 PM
This is a Catch-22. Its true that city workers have to live in Chicago. It's not something I agree with. My Grandfather was a Chicago Police Officer, as well as two of my uncles. The fact of the matter is, this employee did know he was violating the rules. I guess he figured after 5 years, they would never catch up to him. I don't know the negotiations of top brass and where they live, for example the person who insisted on living in Winnetka, rather than have his newly adopted daughter re-adjust to moving to Chicago. I mean, after all, she moved from Russia to Winnetka,How much culture shock can one kid take? The average person, must live in the city to work there. If thats the case, then thats the case. Is it a stupid rule? yes. I am sure there are many people who violate it, however there are many MORE people who don't. This man should live in the city or leave his job. It's really his choice. It has nothing to do with donating a kidney. No one is persecuting him for being a hero. He has to follow the rules like everybody else.
Jimmy September 15, 2011 at 04:27 AM
I agree with you but my question is because of his act of kindness he is losing his job. I mean nobody knew where he lived or cared but because of his act of selfness he is getting persecuted. That's my only problem with this whole thing- people look at him like so what you helped someone put yea it's great but your breaking rules. That's not what upsetse about this. It's how he shows his humanity and willingness to help another fellow person and because of this he gains recognition for his selfless act, he is going to be thrown out of work because of his address. Nevertheless, we are all entitled to our opinions making this an amazing place to live. I just wish people would show a little sympathy as he showed for a complete stranger.
k chicago September 15, 2011 at 08:56 PM
I thought there was a "grandfather" clause. My daughters case worker at her CPS school made no secret that she lived out of chicago and she said she had worked there so long she was grandfathered into a prior rule. When did residency requirements start?
Ted Regencia September 16, 2011 at 01:21 AM
Thanks for the story George! Did a story on him last year. http://tedregenciareports.com/2010/04/19/pinay-receives-gift-of-life-from-stranger/
George Slefo (Editor) September 16, 2011 at 02:18 AM
Ted! So great to hear from you! Nice work on the story too. I hope NY is treating you well. KIT.
Sherelle Griffin September 18, 2011 at 06:42 PM
I see your point. Maybe the residency rule should be eliminated. The CPS school system just thinks it looks bad for employees not to support the school system and that the employees don't have their children enrolled in the CPS.

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