Dynamist Blog

And People Thought I Was Generous (or Crazy)

Focusing on one particular donor, "James," the Arizona Republic's Kerry Fehr-Snyder reports on local programs that encourage people who want to donate kidneys to strangers.

University Medical Center, which is run by the University of Arizona in Tucson, formalized its non-directed kidney donation program almost three years ago. It has transplanted five non-directed kidneys and is scheduled to transplant a sixth one soon.

Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center began its program almost two years ago and since has transplanted three living kidneys, including the one from James last month.

The hope is that others will follow, that the idea will be less hard to fathom as organ-donation agencies grapple with a shortage of kidneys. Individual U.S. transplant centers maintain waiting lists with as many as 500 to 1,500 candidates, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

Why would someone donate a kidney to a stranger (when there's ample pressure not to donate even to a friend)? Here's one man's motivation:

A few years ago, James read a magazine article about an athlete being offered a kidney from relatives, friends and fans, and he thought it sad that many lesser-known people can't find donors.

He then learned that a close friend's mother in Tucson was ill and needed a kidney. James exchanged e-mails with her for months, offering to donate one of his healthy kidneys.

But she died before he could make the donation.

"She never complained, not once. She was amazing, just incredibly brave, just an amazing individual," James said.

After her funeral, he realized he still wanted to donate a kidney.

"Kind of putting money where your mouth is," he said.

As its name suggests, the website MatchingDonors.com helps to match would-be donors with people who need transplants.

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