2016 Transplant Games Athlete — Eric Burge

Paying It Forward

Athlete portrait of Eric BurgeEric Burge of Davenport, Iowa, is no stranger to the world of organ transplantation. In fact, Eric's brother, John, received a kidney transplant just a few years prior to Eric discovering he needed a transplant as well.

Eric and John have an inherited disorder called polycystic kidney disease. It is the most common hereditary disease in the U.S., affecting more than 700,000 people each year. Many cases require an organ transplant due to the formation of cyst clusters in the kidneys that destroy healthy tissue.

Alan Reed, MD, director of Organ Transplant Center at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, says many individuals with polycystic kidney disease need a transplant but tend to have a very favorable prognosis.

A Gift From a Lifelong Friend

Luckily, when Eric started having health issues, his lifelong friend, Mary Beth Murray, had a special connection with organ donation and was willing to help.

Mary Beth, who also lives in Davenport, decided to become an organ donor because of her father's kidney issues when she was younger. Although she desperately wanted to help, Mary Beth was not a compatible match and unable to donate to her father.

When Mary Beth's older sister faced the same kidney issues years later, Mary Beth once again was not a compatible match and unable to donate to her sister.

Unwilling to give up, Mary Beth was determined to help Eric when she discovered he needed a kidney transplant. This time around, Mary Beth was a perfect match for her friend in need.

A Life-Changing Surgery

On Jan. 3, 2013, the day of the surgery, Mary Beth remembers feeling excited and unsure what to expect, but determined to have a successful procedure.

Reed performed Eric's kidney transplant surgery with great success.

Since his transplant, Eric's care has been managed by UI Post Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Coordinator Lou Ann Reynolds, RN. Eric describes Lou Ann's support and calming influence as "immeasurable."

Reynolds stresses the importance of becoming an organ donor.

"Whether it's for a friend, a workmate, or a total stranger, I would tell people they have the ability to change another person's life," Reynold says.

To Eric, a kidney transplant meant a second chance at life.

"As a recipient, there's no way to thank [my donor] to that magnitude," Eric says.

On the Road to the Transplant Games

This year, Eric and Mary Beth participated in the 2016 Transplant Games, held June 10-15 in Cleveland, Ohio. They look at the games as a celebration of life and an opportunity to be together with family and friends.

"I'm incredibly proud of these athletes and so pleased that they have taken this opportunity to do such great things," Reed says.

To learn more about the UI Organ Transplant Center.