Athens Army vet hopes for new kidney in 2020

Updated: Jan 2


Lydia Burden

Release from The National Foundations for Transplants:


At a time of year when most people are focused on holiday celebrations and family gatherings, one Georgia woman faces a very different holiday.

In 1991, while stationed in Korea, Athens resident Lydia Burden was diagnosed with renal failure. It was a shocking discovery, as she was young, had been previously healthy, and has no family history of kidney disease.

Burden had always planned to stay in the Army until she retired, but had to be medically retired instead. “It was always my dream to join the Army,” said Burden. “Although I understand things happen for a reason, I am so grateful that I was able to serve for a short time and even more grateful that I met my Army husband of 27 years while in Korea.”

Burden’s kidney function has declined over time and doctors now say a kidney transplant is critical.

In the United States, there are more than 100,000 people waiting for a kidney, and the average wait time can be anywhere from five to ten years.

For Burden, each day that passes without a phone call from her transplant center is difficult. Her health is getting worse, and a transplant is the only remedy. While she waits, Burden is on dialysis, which takes a toll on her quality of life and leaves her very tired.

“I still have a servant’s heart,” said Burden. “On my non-dialysis days, I volunteer at a Senior Citizens Center. I would do more for them if I had more time and energy.”

Burden is grateful for the love and support of her family and friends during this difficult time. She knows that the longer it takes to receive a kidney, the sicker she is going to get.

A living donor would give her the best chance of receiving a successful transplant. If you are interested in more information or seeing if you are a match, contact the Living Donor Team at Emory at 855-366-7989.

“There are no words to express how appreciative we are that during such tumultuous times there are still loving and selfless people out there,” said Burden. “People who are willing to give of themselves to a total stranger mean the world to me.”

Unfortunately, finding a donor is not the only concern for Burden and her family. The average kidney transplant costs more than $414,000, and that’s only the beginning. Even with insurance, which will cover a portion of the transplant costs, Burden still faces significant expenses related to the surgery. For the rest of her life, she will need follow-up care and anti-rejection medications. Post-transplant medications are very expensive, and they’re as critical to her survival as the transplant itself.

For fundraising support and guidance, Burden and her family turned to the National Foundation for Transplants (NFT) for assistance. NFT is a nonprofit organization that helps patients raise funds to pay for transplant-related expenses through their community-based fundraising program.

“It’s a difficult time for Lydia and her family,” said Samantha Palazolo, a fundraising consultant for the National Foundation for Transplants. “At NFT, we want nothing more than to help Lydia raise the funds she needs and see her receive a successful transplant.”

Once she is transplanted and healthy, Burden wants to become a renal patient advocate. “I want people to know that renal disease and dialysis do not define who we are," she said. "We have dreams and plans that have had to become deferred or dismissed altogether, but I believe that even with an incurable disease I still have a lot to offer and a lot of life left to live.”

If you’d like to make a tax-deductible donation in honor of Burden, please send a contribution to the NFT Georgia Transplant Fund, 5350 Poplar Ave., Suite 850, Memphis, TN 38119. Please be sure to write “in honor of Lydia Burden” on the memo line. Secure donations also can be made online at www.transplants.org. Donors should click on “Find an NFT Patient” to locate Burden.

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