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 at all.
Veteran Uses VA Benefits for Living Kidney Transplant
The first veteran in South Texas to receive a living donor kidney transplant and use his benefits just got his new kidney at University Health Transplant Institute.
“I had Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure first. Finally, they figured out that I had kidney disease,” said Joe Burnett, the Air Force veteran who recently got a kidney transplant.
Burnett had dialysis four hours a day, three days a week. It impacted his life greatly. “Sometimes I would get sick and vomit, sometimes I’d be okay, sometimes I would be dizzy,” Burnett said.
A Long Wait for Kidney Transplant
“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,” said Jennifer Milton, chief administrative officer at the University Health Transplant Institute.
With a living donor, the odds of survival are much higher. “The chance of a successful transplant is so much higher when it’s a living kidney donation,” Milton said.
"If We Can, We Should"
Rosemary Noriega, Burnett’s wife’s best friend, was the living donor that saved his life. “It was the right thing to do and I’m healthy and capable and if we can, we should, and I could so I did,” Noriega said.
“It’s important to know that this benefit is available to you, and even if it doesn’t ever happen to you, you can also donate,” Burnett said.
Transplant Care at University Health
Learn more about living donor transplants at University Health in San Antonio.