In December 2022, Judy Burch celebrated 22 years since receiving her liver transplant. “The day I was put on the transplant list, my husband and I began praying for my donor family. I knew the right liver was out there for me,” she said.
It was a long journey for Burch. She began exhibiting symptoms in 1987 and didn’t have her transplant surgery until Dec. 29, 2000. “I actually do not remember much of what happened in the 90s. My disease had progressed to the point where I was also suffering from encephalopathy. I’d have days where I was more lucid and then the next day I would just want to sleep. Toward the end before I got my transplant, I was in end stage liver disease.”
Burch credits her doctor for catching a lot of the symptoms along the way and treating them early. “I feel like he saved my life in getting me ready for my transplant.”
Once Burch was past her recovery, she felt called to discover her own passion in life. “My husband said, ‘you have received this wonderful gift, I want you to do whatever you want to do.’ And so I prayed to God to give me a passion.”
For Burch that meant relating with others who were going through the same thing she did.
“I was fortunate because I could do what I felt like was good work. So, I started volunteering down at the hospital,” she said. “My doctor was so supportive, he said, ‘I can’t go in and tell someone what it’s like to get a transplant, but you can.’ I did that for about 10 or 12 years.”
And now at 76 and almost 22 years after her surgery, Burch is still in great health and marvels at all of the things she got to do because of the gift of life. “I got to see my son get married and meet another grandchild. I helped take care of my husband after he got sick. The main ailments I deal with now are just age-related issues.”
Burch knows that without her donor’s gift, she wouldn’t be here. “We respect the donor and their family to the utmost. My heart overflows with gratitude. It’s magnificent. It’s the most unselfish thing you can do.”
We’re celebrating National Liver Awareness Month all month long. With early detection of any liver disease, you can double your survival rate. Find out if you’re at risk and learn what to do next.
And while you’re at it, register to become an organ donor there or sign up for the donor registry.