SAN ANTONIO — April is National Donate Life Month. University Health is celebrating the first veteran in south Texas to use his VA benefits to cover a transplant from a living organ donor.
Until recently veterans could only use their VA benefits if the organ came from a deceased donor. That sometimes meant the veteran's transplant was delayed or didn't happen. The first veteran in south Texas to receive a living donor kidney transplant and use his benefits just got a new kidney at the University Health Transplant Institute.
Joseph Burnett, a kidney recipient told us, "It's because I had diabetes, type two diabetes, and high blood pressure for extended period of time. And then finally they figured out that I had kidney disease." The Air Force Veteran had dialysis 4 hours a day, 3 days a week, and it impacted his life greatly. He said, "Sometimes I would get sick and vomit. Sometimes I would be okay. Sometimes I would be dizzy."
Jennifer Milton, the Chief Administration Officer of the University Health Transplant Institute said, "The wait for a kidney transplant for a person like Joe can be up to five years. The average life expectancy on hemodialysis is only about five years."
With a living donor, the odds of survival, and a long survival are much higher. Milton added, "It helps you survive even to the point you can get a transplant. And then the chance of a successful transplant is so much higher if it is a living kidney donation."
Rosemary Noriega, Burnett's wife's best friend, was the living donor that saved his life. She told us, "It is the right thing to do, and I'm healthy and capable. And if we can, we should. So I could. So I did." Burnett added, "It's important to know that this benefit is available to you. It's very important to know that even if this doesn't ever happen to you, it's important to know that you can also donate."
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To learn more about becoming a living organ donor visit this website. Living Donation | San Antonio | University Health If you are ready to become a donor go to registerme.org.