TriStar Health - September 22, 2017

The wait for an organ transplant can be as long as 10 years in some states. For the fortunate recipients of a transplant, the journey is often marked by frequent hospital visits and a significantly reduced quality of life.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

While the majority of organ donations come from deceased donors who decided to donate organs after their death, people can choose to make a living donation and go on to live a full, healthy life. Such donations can quickly go to a recipient and increase the chances of successful transplantation.

Donna Burnett, Hermitage resident and Parallon Business Solution employee, is a testament to the power of living organ donation. Having never undergone surgery or been under general anesthesia, Donna's first experience in the operating room was to donate one of her kidneys to give her brother-in-law a second chance at life.

"My brother-in-law got sick about three years ago and required routine dialysis at TriStar Centennial Medical Center," Donna said. "My sister was ruled out as a candidate, and I honestly did not know whether or not they would even accept me, but I ended up being a perfect match."

Transplant surgeon Clarence Foster, MD, performed the kidney transplant at TriStar Centennial on Dec. 13, 2016.

"The thought of surgery made me apprehensive, but the procedure was minimally invasive, and I would only stay in the hospital for two days," Donna said. "Afterwards, my brother-in-law would no longer need dialysis - that was most important."

"I would encourage people to donate. Talk to your doctor and learn what is involved. I think if people realized what was entailed, more people would choose to be a living donor."

Donna Burnett

Donna had witnessed the change in her brother-in-law as his condition deteriorated, and she knew the stakes were high. She didn't want her sister and niece to live without a husband and a father. Not everyone gets the opportunity to save someone else's life, and Donna was humbled by the experience.

"He was so sick and so tired," Donna said. "Now, he's like a new person, and there is a difference in his demeanor. The other day, he ate something that he wasn't able to eat three years ago, and he thanked me for how awesome it was just to be able to taste something."

Following the procedure, Donna was out of work for one month and took it easy. People ask her what life without one of her kidneys is like, and she tells them she doesn't notice a difference. She has not experienced any complications related to the procedure.

Organ donation is an important personal choice. To learn about becoming an organ donor, visit the United Network for Organ Sharing. To learn more about the Kidney Transplant Program at TriStar Centennial, please call (615) 342-5626 or visit TriStarCentennial.com