Donating a kidney is a way of giving another person a second chance at life. Many who choose to donate typically give it to a friend, family, or loved one, but there are rare cases where individuals will make the generous decision to give a kidney to a complete stranger for nothing in return.
Howard Broadman, a retired Supreme Court judge, knows all about the process, having done just that. However, in his case, his story comes with a bit of a twist as he did receive something in return.
A few years ago Broadman underwent a kidney transplant donation surgery to give the organ to a complete stranger.
In return for his donation, he was given a special voucher. Unlike typical vouchers, this one can’t be traded in for products, but rather for front-of-the-line privileges for another kidney.
Broadman is unlikely to need a kidney himself, but someone close to him probably will—his grandson.
Broadman’s grandson, Quinn Gerlach, who is 7 years old, went through a period where he was incredibly sick.
Quinn has a condition where he was born missing a kidney, and the remaining one was deformed and not fully developed.
“He was a real sick child and we knew before he was born that he only had one kidney, but we thought it was a fully developed kidney,” Broadman explained in a UCLA Health video. “As it turns out, it isn’t.”
As a match to be a donor for Quinn, Broadman explained that he was ready to donate a kidney of his own if it would save his grandson, but the boy’s condition improved and a donation wasn’t yet necessary.
However, in the future Quinn possibly would need a new kidney, and in which case he’d have to be put on a waiting list that includes thousands of other people in similarly desperate situations. If he didn’t get a kidney at a necessary time in the future, Quinn could very possibly die.
As a result, Broadman decided to take preemptive measures.
“If Quinn had needed the kidney right away, I was going to donate my kidney,” Broadman shared with CNN.
“But once he didn’t need it right away, I thought, why not pay it forward and maybe karma would come about.”
Fearing that by the time Gerlach needed the kidney he’d no longer be in proper physical form to donate, Broadman came up with the concept of a delayed kidney swap. Under this idea, Broadman would donate his kidney to a stranger, and in return be reimbursed with a voucher for another one at a time he so chooses, providing a match is available.
His idea received attention, and following its creation at least 21 others have done similar swaps.
Now that the procedure is all done, Broadman is satisfied that no matter what, his grandson will be able to live a full and healthy life. While he recognizes that there is also a possibility that Quinn may never need the spare kidney, Broadman explains that just knowing all of his bases are covered helps put his mind at ease.
“When you think of the downside, that is small, compared to the goodness,” Broadman went on to say.