Dustin Burnham with his mom Leaza Burnham. - Image Credit: Contributed

Ultimate act of charity

World Kidney Day on March 9 meant to raise awareness about being an organ donor.

As a kidney donor recipient, Dustin Burnham has been the benefactor from what he calls the ultimate selfless act—organ donation.

He received that kidney donated by his grandmother in 2000 at age 18, but today the 35-year-old Kelowna resident is back on the organ donor list.

An auto immune disease attacked his transplant kidney, leaving him in need of another replacement as he lives today receiving home hemodialysis treatments to stay alive until another transplant surgery can be done.

“I’m on the kidney donor recipient list so if I get the call, I would drive or fly down to St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver and the donor would probably be traveling there from out of town as well,” said Burnham.

“I’m not sure what the future holds but I know if someone reads about my story and be inspired to be a donor and change someone else’s life is a magnificent thing to do.”

Burnham’s health situation bring added personal significance for acknowledging March 9 as World Kidney Day, a global awareness initiative aimed at educating people about the realities of kidney disease and the importance of organ donation.

For people on dialysis treatment, which performs the toxin cleansing and urinary tract discharge functions normally done by a healthy kidney, it means receiving four-hour treatment three days a week at the hospital or dialysis treatment clinic in Rutland.

Burnham has been able to sustain himself with hemodialysis with the equipment set up at his home, giving himself a four-hour treatment every second day.

“The diet restrictions are far greater on what you eat and drink if you go to the hospital for treatment, so that is one advantage. The other is just having the treatment done in the comfort of your own home,” he said.

It requires him to be responsible for upkeep of the dialysis machine, know how to run it and take care of the fluid filtration system, how to put a needle in his arm and replace supplies as needed.

“I go to the hospital once a month for blood work to make sure everything is working okay but it is a huge blessing to be able to do it at home,” Burnham said.

“But you do have to do some modifications as you need a direct water supply to the dialysis machine. I’m fortunate that I have my own home but it’s hard of you are a renter to start drilling holes and taking down walls to make the water connection work.”

In terms of limitations in his daily life, Burnham said he can’t travel abroad, and he is exhausted leading into and after completing a round of dialysis treatment.

He is on disability but does help out with driving deliveries for his father’s printing business when he’s up to it. “For me, working two or three hours feels like eight hours,” he said.

Burnham says he draws on the strength to carry on from the support of his friends and family, his faith as a member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints and providing a sympathetic ear and voice for those facing the same health ordeal he does.

“I learned a few tricks along the way about dealing with food, fluid intake and other things related to kidney disease, so I understand where they are coming from and if I can, I try to help others prepare for it.

“It can all be very overwhelming at first.”

According to statistics provided by the transplant and organ donation agency BC Transplant, 2016 saw 423 people receive life-saving transplants in our province, the largest number being for kidney transplants at 216, followed by liver (74), lung (40), heart (28) and pancreas related (12).

‘Being an organ donor is probably one of the most charitable things a person can do,” said Burnham. “We are all on this earth for a short period of time, so for someone to give someone else a better quality of life what a blessing, what a selfless act that is.

“I just admire people like that..for we are all in this together.”

For more information about the organ transplant donation program in B.C., check out the website transplant.bc.ca or follow on Twitter @BC_Transplant.

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