50 Voices - Lori Burns - Fifty Lives

Lori Burns

Other

My story is about giving life but not by tissue donation. In September 2010, I donated a kidney to my big brother. In January 2010, he was diagnosed with FSGS (a fairly common kidney disease). He was put on 30 some medications right away. The doctors told him when he was diagnosed, that he should have about 4-5 years before his kidneys totally failed and he would require dialysis. He was hospitalized several times after being diagnosed, including a hospital stay in March where he had double pneumonia and septic shock where he lost most of his remaining kidney function.

In April, my family and I began talking about being tested to see if any of us could be a donor. My father and mother were disqualified due to health reasons. My brother's wife was not a match. However, she was willing to be put on an exchange list. I was on a business trip when I learned of their test results by email from my brother. I responded and told him not to worry and that he would have a kidney when needed. When I returned home, my husband and I went to be tested. About 3 weeks later on my way home from work on a Friday night, I received a phone call telling me that my husband was a compatible match and I was a perfect match. My husband's kidney could last 20 years, where as my kidney (the perfect match) could last up to 30 years. I could feel the tears roll down my face. I think partly out of sheer joy and partly because I was scared. I pulled off the road to absorb everything - my gut feeling from the beginning was right. I was going to be my brother's donor. The next day, I told my family the news and never looked back.

Over the next four months, I went through many more tests to ensure I was indeed a perfect match and that I was a healthy candidate. In June 2010, due to my brother's condition, he had both kidneys removed in preparation for the transplant. He was producing too much protein. Therefore, his kidneys had to be removed in hopes that they would not affect the new kidney. This was a very hard time for me. It was very hard to see my brother so weak and in pain. He began receiving dialysis treatments two days later.

The transplant was scheduled for 3 weeks later. However, it was delayed several weeks due to his blood count being too low. The doctors wanted Kevin to get his blood levels up in order for the transplant to be successful. A blood transfusion was not an option as that would make us not a match for the transplant causing him to reject my kidney. Each week the doctors would check his progress. Finally, the date was set for Thursday, September 9th, 2010.

About one week before the transplant, I learned which kidney I would be donating. The doctors told me that they would be taking my right kidney because I had a couple of very small kidney stones in that kidney. They wanted to leave me with the stronger one even though the left kidney was easier to remove. I had named the kidney "Betty" and at that point we decided to rename the kidney "Betty Rolling Stone Burns".

The transplant was a success! Everything went as planned without any complications. My parents said my brother's color looked great almost immediately after the transplant. My brother spent the first day in ICU while I was on the transplant floor. Less than 24 hours, I got out of bed for the first time even though it was painful and asked to go see my brother. I walked about halfway down the hall and asked for a wheelchair. The next day, my brother was moved to the transplant floor, four doors down from me. We visited each other several times the next couple of days. I left the hospital on Saturday evening, while my brother left the hospital on Sunday. I returned to work 4 weeks after the transplant, still sore, but strong enough to get back into the swing of things. The healing process just takes time.

Although, my brother's kidney disease came back three months later, he is still doing much better than he was before the transplant. The doctors actually misdiagnosed him at the beginning. Instead of having FSGS, he has a different form of kidney disease called IGA. He received 4 experimental treatments of chemotherapy and has been in remission ever since. The kidney may not last the 30 years first anticipated, but he has many years to enjoy life again that he did not have before the transplant. That makes everything worthwhile. I am so happy that I get to see him doing the things he loves to do and he has more time to spend with his two sons. This experience has changed my life forever. I do not want to be the person that does not do anything when someone I know is in a time of need because I don't know what to say. I now know the smallest gesture can mean so much and all I want to do is to help others. I want to educate others about kidney disease and ways to help prevent it. I don't want others to go through the same thing. Lastly, I want to educate others on the importance of the decision of becoming a donor (living or deceased) and how it can give someone a second chance at life.