Jason Burns - 14

smjason burns“I’ve been told that being a bridge donor can be difficult, but to be honest, I didn’t really think about it. I knew they needed time to get everybody lined up to try and transplant as many people as they could, and I just looked at it like I was waiting my turn. I never had any thoughts of backing out. I could never have done that.

“I was curious as to who was going receive my kidney. I was hoping it would be appreciated and taken care of. I’d never been put under the knife like that, and I was antsy about how much it would hurt afterwards. But I was thinking surely I could do this once if Ryane could do this twice.

“Originally, Ryane was supposed to be transplanted in the summer of 2013. We were getting to that point where she was going to have to go on dialysis. Her uncle knew he was the same blood type as she was, and Ryane’s mother and I were not the same blood type. Her uncle wanted to be tested to see if he was a match for her, and he ended up being a perfect match.

“We went over one time prior to when they were going to do the first transplant, and they did more blood tests on Ryane. They wanted some more information on her hemolytic-uremic syndrome, which caused her kidney problems to begin with. It’s a disorder that usually occurs when an infection in the digestive system produces toxic substances that destroy red blood cells, causing kidney injury. The doctors sent off the blood work and found out it was atypical HUS, which is passed down genetically and not by something you picked up, like E. coli.

“They started her on a treatment program for the HUS, one that she’s still on today. She has to have an antibiotic drip treatment every two weeks as a preventative measure to keep the HUS from coming back.

“When we went back for the second attempt, her uncle was in surgery being prepped to have a kidney removed, but when they took Ryane back and opened her up, her heart stopped. They had to close her and her uncle up and cancel the surgery. They wanted to test Ryane’s heart and make sure everything was OK. And, fortunately, it was. Her body, for some reason, just shut down during the surgery.

“This all happened on a Thursday, and they thought they might be able to try it again Sunday, but the doctors ultimately determined that it wouldn’t be in the best interest of her uncle to go through it again.

“At that point, we had to start over on our decision-making. Ultimately, her mom, Ginger, and I signed up to go through the paired kidney donation program. Once we were signed up, I think I had my testing done first, and I was good to go. I was healthy enough to donate a kidney if they could find a recipient.

“Dr. Locke gave Ginger a call and told her about this chain they had started in December told her it was a possibility Ryane could be involved if we were willing to participate in it. Somehow, they were able to pull it off.

“I think they could have used Ginger’s kidney or mine—but I think mine allowed them more options to further the chain. I don’t know for sure. I never really asked. It was fine with me because Ryane was going to receive a kidney if I donated.

“That was the route we went, and I have no regrets—none at all. Looking at Ryane now and watching her and seeing how well she’s doing, it’s hard to believe. It’s a miracle, really because you know the path they’re going down if they can’t find a kidney—dialysis, being on a waiting list for years and the lifestyle you have to live on dialysis. It would have been really tough as a teenager. She wouldn’t be able to get out and do a lot of things and go places with her friends or eat the way she wants to eat. It’s just the best thing ever.

“It was also pretty cool to meet Mr. Little. We actually met the day of or the day after the surgery while we were walking in the hallway. We were walking our surgeries off. It was really neat. My family actually met his family in the waiting room while we were in surgery, and they bonded. We still communicate and everything is great. I’m glad he’s doing so well.

“When you think about this chain, it’s really pretty outstanding the people involved in it. In my instance, I was in this to help my daughter, and I was willing to do it to help her. I’m grateful that I was able to help somebody else, too. But when you look at people like Mrs. Kok, who didn’t have to do anything … She just gave to be giving. Those are the people that really stand out. I’m just part of the chain. All of this doesn’t even happen without her. It’s pretty awesome. And there are many people in the chain who really stand out for their act of giving. We’re all linked.

“I really think if people knew more about kidney transplant and the living donor programs available, there would be a lot more chains started. I don’t think people realize how healthy you can live with one kidney and really how minimal it is to donate.

“I can’t even tell I’ve had the surgery done. I’ve got some muscles rebuilding from my stomach from the incision, but other than that, I can’t even tell I’ve had it done. I just know I’m glad I did.”

Celebrating the nation's longest kidney chain

High-tech medicine and human kindness combine in UAB's ongoing kidney chain, a series of transplant surgeries that have given 101 people so far a new lease on life. The chain is the nation's longest ever.

The kidney chain has been kept going by many remarkable acts of sacrifice, and has revealed many moving stories of determination. Tyler Williamson went to TEDx Birmingham’s 2017 event in March expecting to be inspired and to network and make new connections with fellow attendees. What the 27-year-old did not anticipate was that inspiration would lead him to volunteer to become a living kidney donor just seven months later. See his story in this video:

In their words, stories from our transplant donors and recipients.

Kendra BrooksKendra Brooks. After more than four years of dialysis treatments, Kendra Brooks received her transplant in April 2016. Kendra’s mom donated a kidney so her daughter could receive one and wrote a letter to share the news. “It said, ‘God has answered our prayers. We have a match.’ I cried puddles of tears of joy,” Kendra says. Learn more about Kendra.

sheldon vaughn webSheldon Vaughn. High blood pressure and diabetes ravaged Sheldon Vaughn’s kidneys, and it was the kindness of two donors who helped him achieve a transplant. “A dialysis nurse my wife and I came to know wanted to donate to me, but wasn’t a match for me, and her kidney went to a woman in Florida. But because of her donation, I was able go on the UAB list and received my kidney from a young woman named Nicole who had contacted UAB and wanted to donate her kidney to anybody. So in a sense, I feel like I have two donors.” Learn more about Sheldon.

laura burks w Laura Burks. With a desire to help others, Laura Burks was looking for her next opportunity when a friend posted on her blog about how she was going to donate a kidney. “I thought, ‘That is what I need to do,’ Laura says. “Before that, I didn’t know you could be a loving donor. I thought it was something that happens after you pass away. After realizing that I could give away an organ that I don’t have to have to live with, I thought, ‘If I don’t do this, my life’s not complete.’ I just knew somebody needed a kidney and they’re depending on some stranger to give up theirs, and I was that stranger. Learn more about Laura.

William Harris w William Harris. High blood pressure caused William Harris’ kidneys to fail, and he was told he would eventually need a kidney transplant to live. After nine years of dialysis treatments, his wish came true. “When I was told I was a candidate to get a transplant, and that there was a match for me, I didn’t have any fears,” William says. “I was humbled to know that someone wanted to give me a kidney.” Learn more about William.

Become a part of the chain

Donate a kidney 
If you would like to donate to someone in need of a transplant, begin by filling out this form. You can learn more about kidney transplantation at UAB here.  

Get on the list
If you are in need of a kidney transplant, you will need a referral from your nephrologist. Your doctor can get all the details here.

Give a gift
Support the UAB Comprehensive Transplant Institute with a donation online .

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UAB Kidney Chain news

kidney chain 100 graphic kc siteNation’s longest single-site kidney chain reaches 100

To date, 101 living donors have changed the lives of 101 recipients as part of the nation’s longest ongoing single-center paired kidney transplant chain.

kc baseball thumbUAB baseball team helps Mississippi family cope with loss of father, husband

Young boy loses his dad, but finds many father figures on UAB's baseball team.

div kcFrom transplant lab worker to donor, employee becomes part of UAB’s world-record kidney chain

Divyank Saini is a UAB lab technologist and one of 17 employees who work behind the scenes at UAB Hospital to bring hope to those waiting on heart, lung, kidney, liver and other transplants. Saini made a decision that he wanted to do more than just his important work of interpreting lab samples to find the right matches. He decided to become a living donor and is UAB Kidney Chain donor No. 57. 

chalice kc2Science, generosity save lives in UAB Kidney Chain

Meet a family bound not by blood or name, but by their kidneys in the world’s longest living-donor kidney transplant chain. Discover how science and human kindness come together to save lives.

kc surgeryIncompatible, yet needed: What are incompatible kidney transplants? And why are they done?

The human body is primed to identify and destroy invaders like viruses, bacteria and other pathogens that can bring illness or death. Cells of the immune system and the antibodies they make recognize such foreign bodies and act to remove and destroy them. This defense system is a potential problem for kidney transplants. People have different blood groups and different human leukocyte antigens that can provoke an attack if a tissue, such as a kidney, or blood is transferred from one person to another. These two barriers are called blood group incompatibility and tissue (or histo-) incompatibility. A kidney transplant team uses the histocompatibility and blood bank testing laboratories to determine whether the tissues and blood group of a volunteer living kidney donor and the intended recipient match. A match is good, but matches are not always possible.

Jerry Phillips kcCommunity of the South: Donors help stretch UAB Kidney Chain to record 51 transplants

Fifty-first transplant means 102 total surgeries have been performed since December 2013 as the nation’s longest-ever chain continues to grow.

thompson kcNation’s longest kidney transplant chain reaches 34

The UAB kidney chain, which began December 2013 and expects more transplants in January 2015, ‘showcases the power of the human spirit in every aspect.’

nightline kcNation’s largest single-site kidney transplant chain underway at UAB

Since December, 21 living donor kidney transplants that have taken place at UAB are connected as donors “pay it forward” for a recipient to keep the chain going, and more transplants are scheduled for July.

locke press conferenceSnow can’t stop the Southeast’s largest kidney transplant chain at UAB

The unexpected 2014 snowstorm that crippled the Southeast did not deter the transplant team at UAB from continuing the largest nondirected donor chain ever performed at a single center in the Southeast. 

1080px UPDATE Kidney map 2018

The kidney chain has brought donors and recipients to UAB from across the eastern United States and as far away as Oregon.

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Learn more

dr locke video

UAB transplant surgeon Jayme Locke, M.D., and transplant nephrologist Vineeta Kumar, M.D., discuss living kidney donation and paired-kidney exchange in a series of videos on UAB's MD Learning Channel.