How could I not read a news story with this title: “16 People, 8 Kidneys, One Domino Transplant.” Not only does the title suggest science at its most magical best, but it sits above a photograph of a happy, smiling donor and a happy smiling surgeon with an enormous mustache.

Here’s how it worked. This angel of a man named Thomas Koontz called up Johns Hopkins and said, “I’ll donate my kidney to anyone who needs it.” Just like that. Because that’s the kind of thing that angel-men do. He was matched to a patient whose sister had been incompatible for donation. The sister donated her kidney to another patient with an incompatible donor, and so the domino effect was begun.

In the end, 8 kidneys were shuttled between hospitals in Baltimore, St. Louis, Oklahoma City and Detroit, using both commercial and charter airliners, and all the patients are doing well, according to Dr. Robert Montgomery, director of the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Transplant Center, who coordinated the exchange. “The kidneys seem to be quite happy in their new homes.”

I love this story. I keep thinking of Thomas Koontz, wondering if he’s heroic all the time, or was this a shining singular act. Either way, it’s remarkable to me. I know I would donate a kidney to someone I love. I think maybe I’d even donate a kidney to someone I didn’t love but only knew about – someone who’s story had reached me by whatever means. Someone particular. Someone whose face I could picture as I made the decision to donate.

But Thomas Koontz said “anyone who needs it,” and that is amazing and wonderful to me.

Would you do it? Do you think it’s heroic or crazy? Or do you suspect, as I do, that these two things are not at all mutually exclusive? Tell me what you think!

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