Beth's Story

Altruistic kidney donor Beth Burbridge was up walking just hours after surgery, wearing shoes that marked “one of the best experiences” of her life.

Altruistic kidney donor Beth Burbridge was up walking just hours after surgery, wearing shoes that marked “one of the best experiences” of her life.

Name: Beth Burbridge
City/Town: Louisville, KY
Age at Donation:    39
Occupation:             Application Analyst
Date of Donation: May 14, 2019
Hospital and Location: KentuckyOne Jewish Hospital, Louisville, Kentucky

Did you know your recipient?
No. I met my recipient during the last tests the day before the surgery.

What made you decide to donate?
The recipient’s dad lives in my neighborhood and posted a desperate plea for help on our neighborhood page. His family could not donate because of the genetic component of his disease, so they needed someone outside of the family to help. His father posted details including his blood type, and I had the same blood type. Once I placed myself in his parent’s shoes, I knew I wanted to help.

Was it a tough decision?
Yes, the decision to initiate testing was a tough one.  I didn’t know a lot about kidney donation and I have three elementary and preschool-age children. Once I completed testing and was confirmed as a match, the decision was an easy one.

What were your biggest concerns about donating?
My initial concerns were all related to how our normal family activities would go if I wasn’t able to help for a few weeks. I then had concerns about what would happen if recovery took longer than expected. My work did not cover the time off, so any time over my allotment of vacation days would be unpaid. We had a lot of help from family and friends, so it turned out that my children’s schedules weren’t disrupted. I was also able to return to work quickly, so I didn’t have to take time unpaid. 

How did your family and friends react when you told them you were going to donate?
Before going through the testing process, my husband and I talked through all of his concerns until he was completely comfortable with me donating. Once he was on board, we waited to tell everyone until I found out I was a match.

The range of reactions went from complete support from most people, to “Why?” from others, to “That’s not something I would ever do,” from very few. I think it’s hard for many people to understand my decision to donate to someone I didn’t know until they watch the video of me telling my recipient’s family I was a match. Once they see the complete relief, joy and gratitude in the response from the recipient’s mom and dad, most people understand.  

How did your surgery go?
My surgery went exactly as planned. My surgeon is amazing. It took just over an hour, left three small cuts, and clocked in at 75 minutes.

What was your recovery like while you were in the hospital?
I woke up in observation a couple of hours after the surgery completed. My body reacted with immediate nausea to morphine, so it took several types of anti-nausea medications and several hours for me to feel okay. Ice chips were the best thing for me the day of surgery. 

I was up and walking a few hours after I got to my hospital room. After that, I slept a lot and got up every hour or so to walk a lap around my hospital floor. My mom stayed with me at the hospital so my husband could focus on our kids, which was a blessing. She talked to the physicians and nurses when I struggled the first day. The nurses and doctors checked for gas and bowel movements every time they stopped by. I wasn’t expecting this and had trouble with both!

I was discharged on the third day.  The whole time, I never had intense pain just discomfort.

What was your recovery like at home?
Recovery at home went really smoothly. My husband or kids walked with me every hour or so I was awake. Each walk, we’d set a goal for the next walk or the next day. So, if I made it to one mailbox, we’d try to make it to the next mailbox on the next walk. I showed and explained each of the surgery cuts to the kids, so they were really great about giving me right side hugs or hugs on the leg.  I stopped pain killers the third day after surgery, which helped get my digestion back to normal within a few days.

What was the most difficult part of recovery?
The most difficult parts of recovery the first couple of weeks were getting in and out of bed and finding a comfortable way to sleep. I found sleeping on my right side with a pillow between my knees was most comfortable.

 When did you return to work?
I returned to work six days after surgery. I work remotely, so I didn’t have to drive and could work in a really comfortable environment at my own pace. I found easy tasks were ok the first week of work, but anything requiring a long critical review was incredibly difficult. I returned to my desk the second week of work and found that I needed to get up several times throughout the day due to discomfort. In an ideal setting, I would have waited four weeks to go back to work.

How long was the process from making the first contact about donating until your surgery?
I called for the pre-testing questionnaire at the end of February and completed surgery mid-May.

Is there anything about being a kidney donor that's surprised you?
My donor advocate at the hospital and the surgeon did a great job preparing me and answering all of my questions. If you have a question or want more specific details, ask them!

Would you do it again?
Yes. The joy of giving this gift to the recipient and his family is one of the best experiences of my life.