Inspired by advice from the woman he saved, Carnegie Hero David Michael McCartney, 35, of Darlington, Ind., became a hero once again this year by donating a kidney to a stranger.
McCartney met Elizabeth A. Testerman, then 54, when he and another man, Lee Pierce, removed her from her burning vehicle after a January 2006 highway accident in Atlanta, Ind. At the time of the rescue, Testerman referred to McCartney and Pierce as her “angel babies.”
Testerman told McCartney, then 21, to make certain that he always helped others. McCartney and Testerman, who lived in Texas, kept in touch by phone and through letters until her death from lung cancer three years later.
McCartney said he took Testerman’s words to heart, and in February 2019, McCartney donated one of his kidneys to an anonymous recipient.
Although he always knew he wanted to help people, the decision to become a living organ donor didn’t cross his mind until a friend of his wife, Kelly, lost a brother to renal failure after receiving two kidney transplants. The transplants allowed the man to live an additional 10 years before he passed away.
McCartney said he thought an organ donation sounded like a great way to help someone else, so he requested information on live kidney donations from Indiana University Health. He also talked to a woman he met at a charity golf outing who had donated a kidney. McCartney said he learned that live kidney donations had a higher success rate than those donated by a deceased donor.
After seven months of testing, including blood type compatibility and psychological testing, to see if he was eligible to donate, McCartney was given the go-ahead in December 2018. He said it all stemmed from Testerman’s words of wisdom.
McCartney said that none of his family members discouraged him from donating a kidney, “but one of them thought I was crazy.” McCartney said he did not think about the “what ifs” of donating, but about “what will be,” and realized recipients are looking for “a hope and a dream.”
McCartney, who was in good health and extremely active before the surgery, recovered from surgery quickly, returning to work in half the typical recovery time. He ran two half marathons four months after his transplant surgery. The half marathons both took place the same weekend, one in Indiana and the other one the next day in Ohio.