When Kate Burris sat down to watch an episode of "Grey's Anatomy" last November, the last thing she expected was a life-changing epiphany. But that's exactly what happened. "It's kind of a funny story, actually," she tells us. "Some random character on the show said, 'I'm going to donate my kidney,' and that made me think whether I could donate mine."
Kate, a transplant nurse at Mayo's Arizona campus, was working at another hospital at the time. She says once she made the decision to become an altruistic organ donor, it was "eye-opening" for her to be "on the other side as a patient." And she was floored by the number of tests she had to pass. "I had so many doctor appointments," she says. "I had no idea how detailed the donation process was."
After making it through the qualification process, Kate returned to life as a nurse. In the back of her mind, she wondered whether someone would ever need the kidney she was planning to donate. The answer to that question came a few months later. "When they called and said we have someone who needs your kidney, I was like, 'OK, let's go,'" she says.
That someone was 56-year-old Jim Ensslin.
Jim had a slowly progressing form of kidney disease and had "known for 18 years … that I'd likely need a transplant," he tells us. "But lately, my health had gone downhill. I'd become very tired, very stressed." That all changed, Jim says, after doctors transplanted Kate's kidney into him. "Apparently, a 27-year-old kidney makes me feel like I'm 27 again myself," he says. "I feel much more alert, aware, and awake, which are things I wasn't feeling before the transplant."
Much like in the story we brought you about Anna Longshaw and Bill Eversman, after the transplant, a friendship formed between donor and recipient. Jim and Kate first met on the day Kate was scheduled to be discharged. "I almost didn't let her come to see me because I wasn't feeling well," Jim says. But they met and have become fast friends. "We just had lunch together the other day," Kate tells us.
For Kate, getting to know Jim and having a front row seat to the effect her kidney has had not only on his life, but also the lives of Jim's family, is hard to put into words. "It's so cool to see him doing so well," she tells us. "It's been great for me to see and experience all of this, and it's definitely made me a better nurse. If I could do it again, I would."
You can watch Kate and Jim talk about their friendship here. Then, let us know what you think by sharing your comments below. You'll find handy social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.