After seeing his student’s parents’ call for help, Eddie McCarthy took a blood test to see if he was a match.

Heroes come in all forms.

And sometimes, you can find them in the form of an educator, as is the case of Toledo, Ohio, high school math teacher Eddie McCarthy.

Without hesitation, he donated his kidney to his student suffering from a rare disease.

McCarthy’s Discovery of His Student’s Ailment

While watching the local news on any ordinary day, McCarthy, 35, saw a face he recognized on the screen.

The familiar face happened to be one of his high school math students named Roman McCormick.

McCormick’s parents revealed they were looking for a kidney donor for him, as he suffered from stage 4 kidney disease.

Sadly, no relatives of the teen were a match. And that sparked initiative within McCarthy to try and do something about it.

McCarthy’s Initiative to Help

teen boy standing with his high school teacher
NBC News/ Washington Local Schools

McCarthy shared he didn’t know much about 15-year-old McCormick other than the fact that he was a quiet student and the only freshman in his geometry class and was prompt with his work.

“He was definitely one of my best students,” McCarthy said before adding that he was unaware that McCormick was dealing with a “serious” health condition.

So after seeing the plea from McCormick’s mother, Jamie Redd, McCarthy, who is also a parent (he has two young children), took a blood test to see if he was a match.

McCormick’s Rare Kidney Condition

McCormick’s kidneys were on the decline, and if he didn’t find a living donor, he would have to be on dialysis. Dialysis treatment is around three days a week, lasting approximately two to four hours.

He would also more than likely have to wait three to five years for a deceased donor kidney if he could live that long.

Over 92,000 people are on the national kidney donor waiting list as well.

When McCormick was one, he was diagnosed with Branchio-oto-renal (BOR) syndrome, which can lead to kidney disease and hearing loss.

His mom said they were told that he would probably need a new kidney when he reached 10 years old.

McCormick’s father said it saddened him to see his son become weaker with time because he couldn’t play soccer, his favorite sport. 

And when his kidney function fell to “20 percent” while he was in junior high, McCormick’s dad knew he needed a new kidney.

The Search for a Donor

McCormick’s parents, who divorced when he was one, began a quest for a living donor when Roman was in 8th grade.

They launched a website and took to Facebook in October 2021, as well as letting everybody in proximity know that McCormick needed a kidney.

Redd, McCormick’s mom, said many people did volunteer to get tested to see if they were a match, but to no avail.

But in February, a silver lining occurred after McCarthy spotted the story on the news. He believed it would be challenging to see McCormick “every day” at school with the understanding that he needed a kidney and without knowing if he could be a potential match for him.

With that, McCarthy went and got a blood test at a local clinic, finding out that he had O-positive blood like McCormick. This prompted McCarthy to keep going.

He then went to the University of Michigan Transplant Center in Ann Arbor, which was also giving additional testing for people with McCormick’s blood type.

McCarthy explained that he spoke with his wife about it, which shocked her a little. However, she was supportive of the efforts.

Towards the end of June, he heard he was a significant donor match for McCormick.

McCarthy didn’t reach out to McCormick’s parents during the process or inform them that he was a potential match because he didn’t want to give them hope if it wasn’t the case.

But when the hospital confirmed in June that the surgery was greenlit, staff alerted McCormick’s parents that there was a donor. 

When they heard the news, they began to tear up.

And the tears of joy didn’t stop when they found out McCarthy was the donor.

The Life-Changing Surgery

McCormick said he was shocked to find out his math teacher was donating his kidney to him, citing that he is a “cool teacher.” 

Still, he wasn’t expecting him to give him a kidney because he received “decent grades in his class.”

On July 19, McCormick was wheeled into an operating room at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, the same place where McCarthy was having his kidney removed. 

Surgeons said both surgeries were two and a half hours long.

“Most of the time, living donors like Eddie will get something out of this themselves. It’s a positive thing that boosts self-identity and self-esteem,” McCarthy’s surgeon, Randall Sung.

McCormick’s surgeon Michael Englesbe said his transplant went well, noting that he was discharged a week later on July 26.

McCormick would have to be on medication for the rest of his life to prevent his body from rejecting the transplanted kidney.

McCormick’s mom also said he will probably need a new kidney in roughly 20 years.

She also revealed that loved ones started a GoFundMe for him to help cover medical fees that insurance wouldn’t. 

The University of Michigan Transplant Center entirely covered McCarthy’s expenses.

“Everyone in our family will forever be grateful for what Eddie did,” Redd said. 

Elsewhere, McCarthy said McCormick won’t be in his class this Fall, but that won’t stop him from running into him and showing compassion in the hallway.

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