Retired judge Howard Broadman helped his grandson get a kidney in the future — and he didn’t even need time travel to do it.
He did have to make an incredibly generous move, though.
Three years ago, he donated one of his kidneys — not to his beloved grandson, but to a total stranger. Yep. You read that right. A stranger.
You see, Broadman’s grandson is Quinn, a little boy born with only one kidney — one kidney that isn’t fully functioning. Broadman may be too old to donate by the time Quinn needs a transplant.
At first, he considered donating to a complete stranger anyway. He’d join the list of living donors fittingly called “altruistic donors” and hope for karma to come back around and help Quinn in the future.
Instead, he came up with a brilliant idea.
That stranger he donated his kidney to? Her name is Kathy DeGrandis. And her sister (who hadn’t previously donated because she wasn’t compatible with Kathy), donated to a stranger, whose family donated to someone else.
How does this lead back to Quinn? Well, thanks to his grandfather’s innovative thinking, Quinn gets a voucher for that kidney he might need in the future.
“I didn’t know anything about kidney donations or anything like that,” Broadman says. But learning that his grandson’s life was on the line got him thinking.
He realized that the supply of donated kidneys doesn’t even come close to keeping up with the number of people who need them.
To get a transplant in the future, Quinn would have to join a list that’s currently over 100,000 people long, according to the National Kidney Foundation.
It’s a disturbing wait, with only about 18,000 transplants taking place every year.
That’s why Broadman brought his simple idea to medical professionals at UCLA. He proposed that he’d donate a kidney to a stranger now, and Quinn would get a voucher for a kidney in the future.
And, in the end, he wouldn’t only save one stranger’s life.
Now, his simple proposal is touching more and more strangers’ lives every year.
The UCLA Kidney Voucher Program, in association with the National Kidney Registry, connects patients in a sort of paying-it-forward system that Broadman describes as “a geometric progression of goodness.”
How it works: Someone like Broadman has a kidney to give and a loved one in need, but an obstacle like time stands in the way of a direct donation.
So they donate to a stranger. Then their loved one (like the Lego-loving, soccer-playing, joyful kindergartner named Quinn) gets a voucher to become a high priority recipient when an appropriate match becomes available.
The initial response to Broadman’s idea? Medical professionals told him that “nobody’s ever wanted to do that before,” he says.
But he was ready to be the first, and a unique exchange program was born.
Since its inception at UCLA, at least 30 hospitals now have this program, and studies show that it’s making a real difference.
Right now, only about 6,000 donations a year come from the most effective donors — living donors.
This voucher program is already increasing those numbers. So far, donation chains have led to 68 transplants and 21 vouchers issued to patients in need. People who aren’t compatible with their loved ones can donate to help them anyway.
“Sometimes you need to break out of your pattern, look at things from a different viewpoint,” Broadman suggests. This program, he says, is his “small gift to the universe.”
He pulls no punches in admitting that donating a kidney is a painful procedure. But he’ll tell you that it’s worth it to give a fighting chance to someone — like that adorable youngster Quinn, or your own loved one.
“It’s my best legacy. I don’t know any gift better,” Broadman says as his voice cracks. “It’s pretty powerful.”
Inspired? Learn more about the UCLA Kidney Voucher Program.