The holidays make most people feel a bit more charitable than the rest of the year. While many are willing to part with spare clothes or extra cans of food, Bobby McLaughlin is ready to give away his spare kidney.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” McLaughlin said. “Sorry, I don’t have a better explanation. It’s just the right thing to do.”

McLaughlin grew up in Magnolia with his parents and siblings, and is now a father and retail delivery manager in the city. He now resides in Mukilteo, but his parents still live in Magnolia.

McLaughlin is donating his kidney through altruistic donation with the University of Washington’s organ transplant and donor program.

“This year we celebrated 50 years,” said Nicolae Leca, UW Medicine’s medical director of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation. “In January 2018, we celebrated. We started in 1968. There have been improvements in surgical techniques since then. Rejection rates are very rare these days.”

The UW program is one of the most successful programs in the country. For the UW program, altruistic donors like McLaughlin are people who are willing to part with a kidney with no specific person in mind.

“There is more people waiting on dialysis than there are people who are donating,” Leca said. “Altruistic, like Bobby, who donate to anyone rather than a specific person, are usually people who have been touched by donations from a previous experience. Or understand how significant the kidney disease is in our neighborhood.”

McLaughlin said he learned about donation after a cycling accident that damaged his arm and wrist.

“When I woke up, I found out (the doctors) used donor tissue to repair my arm,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said his mother also survived multiple rounds of cancer, the most recent a type of lymphoma. During her treatment, McLaughlin said she received a lot of donated blood and plasma.

McLaughlin felt moved by these donations and started researching kidney disease.

“There are currently over 109,000 Americans on the national waitlist for a kidney,” McLaughlin wrote on his Facebook page on Oct. 2. “Every day 13 people die while waiting for a life-saving kidney transplant. Most of us have two kidneys, yet we only need one! My journey to this day has unfolded in ways I could never have imagined.”

For medical professionals like Leca, seeing someone die from kidney disease is difficult since the disease can be almost completely reversed by donation.

“First of all, having kidney failure and being on dialysis is a significant health detrimental effect,” Leca said. “The survival — mortality — is equal to most of the cancers. That negative effect is reversed with a functioning kidney transplant. Not having to do dialysis or doing the treatments themselves means people are able to travel, have a normal energy level. They return practically to a normal lifestyle. They can work again. More important than that is their survival.”

Leca said the UW program has about five to 10 altruistic donors a year. The process to screen donors takes between one to six months, but a smaller number of donors actually get to go under the knife.

McLaughlin went through extensive tests to make sure his kidney was viable for donation. Now preparing for surgery in January, McLaughlin knows his donation will actually help at least three people on the waitlist.

By donating one kidney, two more will be given to those in need through a program Leca described as a chain.

“One person may want to donate their kidney to a family member but cannot,” Leca said. “But through this program we get altruistic donors, such as Bobby, and they donate their kidney to the family, and the other family member then donates to someone else. We have multiple chains that have already been started. Some are at number six or seven. Sometimes they go on forever.”

Leca said the most common type of surgery is laparoscopy, which is less intrusive than open surgery and only takes about three hours. In some cases open surgery is required. After surgery the donor will take time to heal, and then can go back to living a normal life. There are few requirements before heading into surgery, Leca said, besides keeping up with a healthy lifestyle.

McLaughlin said he is not nervous about his surgery in January and hopes he will be able to meet the person who receives his kidney next year. The support he’s received from his family and community has made the decision to donate even easier.

“My family and friends have been so supportive,” McLaughlin said. “This is just a great way to give back.”