Iowa Alumni Magazine | April 2009 | People

Giving from the Kidney: Ed Grattam

By Shelbi Thomas
With his kidney donation, Ed Grattan entered the UIHC record books—and saved a stranger's life.

Ed Grattan didn't need one of his kidneys, so he gave it away. And not to anyone he knew. The first anonymous altruistic living donor in UI Hospitals and Clinics history, Grattan, 88MA, explains, "I did it because of God's love for us."

With his donation, Grattan joined fewer than 600 Americans in the last 20 years who have, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, donated an organ without naming a recipient. "It doesn't cross people's minds to give up what they're using," says Grattan, who prayed a lot before reaching what he admits is "a pretty extreme" decision.

Athletic and blessed with good health, Grattan wanted to help others and act on his Christian faith. He'd heard that few people designated as donors on their drivers' license leave organs healthy enough to donate. He'd also read a newspaper article about a UIHC employee who gave her kidney to a coworker.

Inspired by both of these facts, Grattan underwent an intense physical and psychological screening at the UIHC, where doctors ensured he was aware of the surgery's risks and could live a healthy life with only one kidney. Grattan gained his family's approval once he knew he could donate, and on his father's birthday this past November, he had major surgery.

In a five-and-a-half-hour procedure, transplant doctors removed Grattan's kidney, leaving him with a four-inch scar. The normally active Grattan was confined to bed for three days after the surgery, experienced considerable pain, and wasn't allowed to lift more than ten pounds for weeks.

Though the surgery left him at a greater likelihood for diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney complications, Grattan says the risks were small compared to the rewards. He can now return to his previous lifestyle—including training for two triathlons this summer—and also gain satisfaction in knowing he has given another man a new chance at life.

Perhaps his extreme decision will have other far-reaching consequences. As Grattan says, "It would be great if [my story] could inspire others."