Suzanne's Story

Suzanne never expected to become a kidney donor, but when she had the opportunity to, she said yes with confidence.

Suzanne never expected to become a kidney donor, but when she had the opportunity to, she said yes with confidence.

Name: Suzanne Burton
City/Town: Cincinnati, OH
Current Age: 57
Occupation: Life Coach
Date of Donation: Oct. 23, 2017
Hospital/location: The Christ Hospital, Cincinnati, OH


Did you know your recipient?
Yes, the recipient and I had been married and were recently divorced when he shared that he was going to need another transplant. This would be his second, the first took place approximately 17 years ago. I was moving on after the divorce and was enjoying my life and pursuing my career as a life coach when he called to tell me that he would soon need another transplant. I listened, well aware during our marriage that at some point he would again need a transplant, but expected another blood relative or close friend would potentially be the best candidate.

At the end of this conversation he shared he would soon be sending out letters to people he thought would at least consider being tested for a possible match and at that point I heard myself say, “When you get ready to send out your letters, go ahead and send one to me.” In that moment I really did not think I would be the best match out of those who would ultimately get tested and the divorce did not leave me feeling close to him.

What made you decide to donate?
I did not spend any time with the decision to donate once the tests came back showing I was the best match for him. Although stunned, I thought, okay, this must be happening for a reason. Because I had been willing to go through the testing to begin with, I felt I had put the ball in motion and it was just, let’s get this done. 

Was it a tough decision? 
I never second-guessed or worried about my decision. I suppose in part it was after talking with the coordinator, the social worker and the surgeons that I knew I had nothing to worry about. This may sound a little woo-woo, but I had such an inner peace and a sense of well-being around my decision. My decision was never around thinking this experience might bring us back together as a couple, it was never even close to that; it was more like, this person I know needs a kidney, and I am in good physical, mental and emotion health.

How did your family and friends react when you told them you were going to donate?
I have a handful of people in my life who know who I am and were not terribly surprised with this decision. Those who are newer friends expressed difficulty understanding my reasons to be my ex-husband’s donor because they were familiar with the marriage/divorce. More than one person shared with me they could not have made the same decision.

How did your surgery go?
I understand organ donation is a big deal and that I did make a sacrifice, however, my experiences pre- and post-op went so effortlessly and with little pain and discomfort that it feels somewhat surreal. If it wasn’t for the scars to prove I had this experience, I would have difficulty believing it had happened at all. 

What was your recovery like while you were in the hospital?
The surgery lasted approximately 4.5 hours so by 5:00 that evening, I was back in my room with plenty of meds to keep me comfortable. The nursing staff was great and everyone who was part of this team stopped in to check on me frequently. Other than the surgery sites, I felt great emotionally and physically. I stayed three days before going home.

What was your recovery like at home?
I returned home and my sister-in-law stayed with me through the weekend and took great care of me. My new boyfriend, who lives in Kentucky, came into town and packed me up and took me to his house where he waited on me and cared for me with great diligence. I was in a position where I could focus on healing and getting better. I did follow all post-op instructions to a T.

What was the most difficult part of recovery?
The most difficult part of the recovery for me was just taking it easy.

When did you return to work?
I returned to work six weeks after the surgery, part-time for the first two weeks. 

How long was the process from making the first contact about donating until your surgery? 
It was the end of January 2017, when my ex-husband first mentioned to me about his need and I contacted the coordinator within a week. The surgery took place on October 23, 2017. 

Is there anything about being a kidney donor that's surprised you?
My biggest surprise about the donation was twofold: that I would be a donor, and that in this circumstance, I turned out to be the best match.

Would you do it again?
Based upon my personal experience, which was nothing but great, I would highly recommend donation.

Janice CragoAge 55–70