High school teacher getting ready to donate kidney to student

Eddie McCarthy, an Ohio math teacher, is getting ready to donate a kidney to Roman McCormick, one of his high school students.

ByYi-Jin Yu ABCNews logo
Monday, July 17, 2023
Math teacher to donate kidney to former student
What are the odds the guy who taught you the Pythagorean theorem is also your "perfect match" kidney donor?

TOLEDO, Ohio -- An Ohio math teacher is getting ready to donate a kidney to one of his high school students next week.

Eddie McCarthy, a math teacher at Whitmer High School in Toledo, Ohio, taught Roman McCormick geometry last school year, but he's going to give Roman more than just skills for life: Roman's parents hope one of McCarthy's kidneys will give the 15-year-old "his teenage years back."

Roman, a high school sophomore, has branchiootorenal or BOR syndrome, a rare, hereditary condition that affects tissue development and can cause ear and kidney malformations, according to the National Institutes of Health.

"I'm not able to eat foods that most normal kids will be able to. I'm not able to be more [physically] active because [my] kidneys are slowing down my physical activity," Roman told "Good Morning America," adding that his condition often makes him feel very tired as well.

Jamie Redd, Roman's mother, explained, "It's spelled B-O-R and you can have the B, the O or the R. With Roman, he has the B and the R. We didn't know that his father had it until Roman was diagnosed with it. And then his father had a kidney transplant [last year]. They both had the R, which is 'renal' ... The B is for 'branchio', so like, [Roman] had a hole in his chest and two holes in the sides of his ears. They were like divot size holes in the sides of his ears that he had surgery at 6 months to correct and fix."

Over time, Roman's BOR syndrome worsened and led to stage 4 kidney disease, and it appeared he would need to go on dialysis if he couldn't find a donor and get a kidney transplant.

Redd and Roman's father Dan McCormick decided to reach out for outside help in February, first telling Roman's story through a local news article with The Monroe News in Monroe, Michigan, about 21 miles north of Toledo, and then later through local TV news, including with Toledo ABC affiliate WTVG.

"That story was pretty much our cry for help to get a donor, to get people to want to donate, to be live donors," Redd said, adding that they had been searching for a live donor for Roman for nearly two years. "Our goal was to get a live donor because a kidney from a live donor will last longer than from a deceased donor."

McCarthy ended up seeing Roman's story five months ago and said he didn't dwell on it too much, but within a couple of days, he called and went to get tested to see if he could help.

"In mid-February, I think the story was just going around, maybe on Facebook or something and maybe one of my friends might have texted me like, 'Hey, this is your student.' So I saw that," McCarthy recounted. "And then the next day, or maybe a day after that, I went and got tested. We were matched there and then I just kept going back up to the hospital and doing all the tests that you have to do, and I kept coming back healthy, and it was shown that I'm a match for him."

For the kidney donation, McCarthy and Roman would have to share the same blood type -- in this case, O positive -- and other steps had to be followed for it all to work out.

"When I originally signed up, you don't go into it thinking, 'I'm gonna donate my kidney.' You just go into it thinking, 'Let's see if we're a match. Let's see if it works.'" McCarthy said. "And then it just worked. And it's pretty crazy that it ends up being, you know, like his math teacher ... because I know there were a bunch of other people that probably started the process as well. But you know, you got to be a match. It doesn't always work out."

The donation and transplant surgeries will take place July 19 at the University of Michigan University Hospital in Ann Arbor, about an hour away from Toledo.

Both Dan McCormick and Redd said they are immensely grateful to McCarthy for his selfless act for their son.

"The fact that my son was able to get a donor just means the world to me," McCormick said. "I'll never be able to ... thank him enough for everything that he's done for us. He's a wonderful human being."

Redd added, "I was just so speechless ... I could thank him for the rest of my life and it would still never be enough for what he's doing. And I know it's a commitment not just from him, but his family too."

As a parent himself, McCarthy said he has tried to put himself in McCormick and Redd's shoes and now is "just very excited" to help Roman.

"There's people out there who need kidneys ... You technically don't need both of yours. So, why not help someone who really really needs it?" McCarthy said. "It's totally worth it to just go for it. Go get checked out and see if you're a match."

Redd added she hopes Roman's story will encourage other families who may also be going through a tough time with their kids.

"My message would be to never give up, to always advocate for your child, to keep pushing. I know there were times where we felt like we were on a roller coaster," Redd said.

She added, "My [other] message would be to get checked, because you can be a live donor for someone and help. You don't just have to be that mark on your driver's license, saying, 'I'm an organ donor.' You can help someone right now, while you're here."