Ky. woman pushing for more protections for living organ donors

Ky. woman pushing for more protections for living organ donors
Published: Apr. 8, 2022 at 9:33 PM CDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - April is Donate a Life Month. More than 100,000 Americans are on the waiting list for a life-saving organ transplant.

Donate Life America said 17 people die every day while waiting for an organ. It’s why activists are encouraging people to consider being a living donor.

It’s a moment that changed Beth Burbridge’s neighbors’ lives when she told them she was a match for their son’s organ donation.

“I thought, this could have been one of our children. This could be one of our kids that we’re reaching out desperately, hoping that someone can step forward to save them,” Burbridge said.

It’s why she decided to be a living organ donor. It was a simple decision for her, but it came with many barriers, from her employer.

“My company considered the surgery elective. So what that meant is that I took four vacation days and two weekend days, and I returned to work six days after donating my kidney,” Burbridge said.

It’s a major operation that takes weeks to recover from. At the time, Kentucky had no laws protecting living donors, and Burbridge’s family couldn’t afford for her to go unpaid.

“I was able to work from home. If I had to go into an office, or be in a classroom with kids, there is no way that I would have been able to go through with this surgery,” Burbridge said.

The American Kidney Fund gives Kentucky a “C” for its existing laws and protections for living organ donors. Only two are in place, and were just passed last year, giving public employees separate paid leave, for up to eight weeks, for an organ donation. The other protects donors from insurance discrimination.

“We can do better, I know we can do better for all of the Kentucky families that are depending on us to do better,” Burbridge said.

She’s been an advocate for change, and was instrumental in passing the laws that are now in place. But she said there is still work to do in order to get Kentucky at the top of the list.

“To be able to say we can do better, that legislators will see that and know we get an opportunity not only to help living organ donors, but to save Kentucky lives,” Burbridge said.

Right now, more than 1,000 Kentuckians are on the organ donor waiting list.

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