Twin Cities man becomes rare two-time altruistic organ donor

Ted Garding is the guardian angel we all hope to have. 

"Helping people has truly been the most important thing to me my whole life," said Ted.

It’s a trait that has deep roots in a family tree with a large canopy.  Giving and sharing is what you do when you’re the second youngest of 11 children. 

"My dad was always helping people, and we were taught to help people in need," Ted recalls.  "I would go with him, and we would pick up people that couldn’t get to church on their own.  People in group homes, and they would come over to our house for dinner.  I shared a lot of those moments with my dad."

It’s in part what drove him 11 years ago to become an altruistic organ donor.

"An altruistic donor is an individual that wants to help somebody in need.  And no matter who it is, and they don’t even know the person," said Ted.

With the help of the University of Minnesota in 2010, he went through the procedure of donating one of his kidneys.  His recipient later reached out to Ted to thank him for his generosity.  Ted describes him as a young man in his 20s named Joe.

"He said, Ted, I’ve been sick a long time and I never knew what it was like to feel good. Now I know what it’s like to feel good."

But ever since the experience of donating a kidney and seeing how it changed another person’s life, Ted has always wondered if there was more he could do.

"You know, I’ve actually prayed for it," said Ted.

So one day he picked up his phone and searched for living donor, and the Mayo Clinic topped his Google search.

"I was thinking, I’m 57 years old, I’m not going to pass these tests, plus, I’ve already given a kidney," he recalled.

But it turned out after going through the evaluations at Mayo Clinic, Ted was a perfect candidate.

"Pretty much anybody who is healthy, who doesn’t have any other chronic diseases, who doesn’t have a liver disease can donate," said Dr. Timucin Taner of Mayo Clinic’s living liver donor program.

Dr. Taner says there are about 18,000 people across the nation waiting for a liver transplant.  There are simply not enough donors, living or deceased to fill the need. The medical practice of living liver transplants has been pioneered in Asian countries. Cultural customs there prevent many organ donations from people who have died.  Therefore, Dr. Taner explains doctors in Asian nations have practiced and perfected living liver donations for several decades.

"The liver is a big organ, and we can actually take half of it," Dr. Taner explained.  "Half of the liver can be transplanted into somebody who is in need of a liver and then the liver regenerates and grows back to normal size in a span of about three to four weeks."

The donor’s liver grows back in about the same amount of time. "So it’s just the amazing ability of the liver that allows us to do this operation," said Taner.

On October 29, Ted Garding went to Mayo to have Dr. Taner and a team of doctors take a part of his liver.

"Just what Ted is, just exemplifies the ultimate gift of generosity.  I can’t think of anything better a person can do," said Taner.

Ted’s liver went to a woman who needed one.  He has not met her, but she did send him an email expressing her gratitude.

"She said that now she will be able to watch her grandchildren grow up.  And she called me her angel," said Ted.

Ted modestly says he can’t comprehend that he’s done anything special.  Although he does admit the medical procedures organ donations are miraculous.

"It’s the most positive thing that I have ever done in my life and that I could probably ever could do.  I would do it again, and again."

Click here to learn more about the Mayo Clinic living organ donor program.