Thrive by IU Health

June 11, 2021

Runner, kidney donor – Focused on kidney disease awareness

Runner, kidney donor – Focused on kidney disease awareness

His story is heroic. He once saved a woman from a burning car and later donated a kidney to a stranger. But David McCartney has one primary goal: Bringing attention to kidney disease and organ donation.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes,

Stay focused. Keep looking forward.

It’s a mantra for many runners and it’s also at the heart of many people awaiting kidney transplant and recovering from organ transplant. David McCartney has his heart set on keeping those individuals in the spotlight of his efforts.

David McCartney running

Consider that he has already gained attention from numerous local media outlets and national entities too – including People Magazine and 60 Minutes. Part of his extraordinary story is this: In 2006, he rescued a 21-year-old woman from a burning vehicle. He went on to receive the prestigious bronze “Carnegie Medal” awarded to ordinary people who risk their lives to save others.

There’s more to that story: McCartney made a promise to that woman that he would always help others.

“I wasn’t sure at the time what that meant but over time it has become a little more clear,” said McCartney, a resident of Darlington, Ind. in Montgomery County. On Feb. 28, 2019 he became a non-directed kidney donor, meaning he did not know his recipient; he just knew someone needed a kidney.

The Indiana Donor Network reports that as of February 2021, there were 91,319 people in the United States awaiting a kidney transplant. There are 873 Indiana residents awaiting transplant and in 2020, there were 857 people who received organ transplants as a result of 252 organ donors. Last month, IU Health performed 24 kidney transplants.

Living kidney donors do not need to be related to the recipient. Compatibility is based on blood type (ABO) and tissue typing. Age and size are also taken into consideration. If blood types are incompatible, there are other options to match a donated kidney with someone in need of transplant.

McCartney has made it his mission to educate the public about those options. His efforts started about five years ago. His wife, Kelly, introduced him to her best friend, Katina Patton Curran.

On March 14, 2014, Curran lost her brother, Mason Patton, 38, due to complications stemming from a history of kidney disease and two transplants. Nine years ago, Denise and Mark Patton, parents of Curran and her brother, formed “Team Mason.” Through a collaborative effort of family members and friends, “Team Mason” has made a significant impact on individuals faced with kidney disease – both educationally, and financially.

It was a perfect match for McCartney and his desire to help others. It was also a perfect match for one of his passions – distance running. He started running in high school and competes in 12 to 15 races a year. He and his wife are parents to two children, Madison, 17 and Elijah, 18. As a way to increase the awareness of the efforts of Team Mason, McCartney set a goal: To run ultra-marathons in all 50 states. Elijah McCartney joins his dad on many of those races, averaging about 1,000 miles. In the past three months, their races included a 100K in Arizona; a 100K in Utah; a 50K in Kentucky; and a 70K in Texas. Elijah mostly runs courses 50 and under, said his dad.

McCartney and Elijah posing in running gear

“We’re trying to show that not only can you have a normal life post kidney donation, but that there is a great need for living donors,” said McCartney, who works for the City of Carmel. He also operates a family farm and has donated meat to Team Mason fundraising events.

“I met a guy at one race and we talked for hours about kidney transplant and donation. It’s the number one purpose – getting the word out. Everyone knows how to give blood but not everyone knows about organ donation,” said McCartney.
“When people see me running like a weirdo it adds validity to the cause – the more exposure I can bring to the cause, the more we can educate others.”

On Friday, June 4th, McCartney will take part in what he calls “The Super Bowl of Racing.” Presented by Relentless Running Events, the 24-hour endurance race takes place in Black Mountain, N.C. where McCartney will raise funds for Team Mason.

And while McCartney is running for a cause, 15 IU Health staff members will volunteer for the 2021 Kidney Camp at Camp Tecumseh. Traditionally, a weeklong camp, this year’s event is reduced to one day – a safety measure due to COVID restrictions. About 25 children, ages 8-18 with kidney disease or who have received a transplant will attend the camp. Many are patients of Riley Hospital at IU Health.

The National Kidney Foundation of Indiana sponsors the free camp. Over the years, Team Mason has donated more than $150,000 to causes related to the organization and has sponsored as many as 30 campers in one year. The campers enjoy traditional activities such as horseback riding, zip lining, swimming, canoeing, arts and crafts, while receiving specialized medical care on site provided by hospital volunteers.

“David is an awesome young man and his efforts to bring attention to kidney disease and donation are exactly are focus,” said Denis Patton. “We do this for so many other kids and Mason is our anchor.”

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