Local medical student donates kidney to stranger, starts life-saving chain

WASHINGTON — On this long Thanksgiving weekend, we reserve a special “thank you” for guys like Graham Stratton.

Stratton is a second-year student at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences who did something unusual during his summer vacation — he donated a kidney to a stranger.

He says the idea came to him last November, while studying in the campus library. He looked up from his reading materials on kidney disease and said to a colleague “we should donate kidneys.”

She thought he was joking. But Stratton was serious.

He contacted people he knew at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, near his home in Philadelphia. They had him fill out some online forms, then meet with doctors to check his physical and mental health.

“They check to make sure you are not doing this for coerced reasons,” he says, noting that his surgeon said she thought the whole idea was crazy.

But to Stratton, it all made perfect sense. He says he knew the risk he faced as a donor was tiny, especially compared with the 100 percent risk of inconvenience and pain facing patients with kidney failure.

Prep work continued during his visits home from GW this January and February. The surgery finally took place in August during his break from medical school and Stratton now says with a bit of pride that his kidney became the first link in a life-saving chain.

“I donated to somebody, and their loved one donated to somebody, and then their loved one donated to somebody,” he recalls with a smile.

Stratton’s kidney went by plane to Georgia, where it was transplanted into a waiting patient. A kidney from someone linked to that patient then went to someone in need at another hospital, and so on and so on, until the chain ended where it began — with a kidney recipient at Penn.

Stratton says he had no qualms about donating and didn’t think twice. But he is clearly uncomfortable when someone calls him a hero for saving a life.

“I think it is something someone should just do.”

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up