STEAMBOAT SPRINGS - Just outside Steamboat Springs, Tracy Bye has spent her life helping other lives.
She's spent 25 years getting hundreds of animals back on their feet as a wildlife rehabilitator and 30 years as a teacher in Steamboat.
“I just always cared about people and animals,” Bye said.
Those who know Bye say she’s one of the most caring people around, and that’s something Henry Howard knows better than anyone.
"She was always just the most gentle kind-hearted teacher,” Howard said.
Twenty years ago or so, Howard was in elementary school.
“I had him in student council, Henry was one of those students in elementary that I connected to,” Bye said.
Back then, Bye helped give him the gift of knowledge. About two weeks ago, she helped give Howard the gift of life.
“I just feel honored to give him his life back,” Bye said.
For years, Howard has been sick. With his kidneys failing at 29, he was just about out of time.
“The last year experience the effects of full-blown kidney disease getting down to 7 percent kidney function,” Howard said.
That’s when Bye heard how sick her former student was, and without hesitation decided she would donate her kidney.
“When I read what his disease was and how his kidney function was so low I was like, I’ll try it, I just thought if I’m healthy enough that’s something I can do,” Bye said.
She was tested and her kidney a match so quickly the two went into surgery.
“I have started to realize a miracle has come in the form of a person and people were created to be miracles in people’s lives,” Howard said.
Right after the operation, Howard noticed he had a lot more energy more than he had in years.
“A week out I got up at 4:30 in the morning and got the bottle out and ran it under water and gave my son a bottle at night for the first time,” Howard said.
Getting more time and moments with his wife and new son along with a lifelong bond with his former teacher unlike most, more he says than he will ever be able to repay.
“She gave me so much and there’s nothing I can say or do to return the amount of life she has given me,” Howard said.
That’s where this teacher has one more lesson about giving to give.
“It’s a huge thing and it impacts both your lives for the better I feel like,” Bye said.
Saying if she’s saving animals, preparing kids for life or giving a former student and his family a lifetime together for Bye the gift is in the act of giving.
“Life gives you a lot and if you can give back, that’s the best part of life,” Bye said.
Copyright 2016 KUSA