Joanna Burka

Living Kidney Donor
Charleston, WV

JoAnne Burka and Dawn Gallo had been friends for 40 years. When Dawn was a high school senior, she began a lifelong struggle with lupus, an autoimmune disease that affected her kidneys and heart. Twenty-six years later, JoAnne had wanted to give Dawn a kidney, but they weren’t a match and the local kidney exchange never took place.

When Dawn’s struggles finally ended with her peaceful passing in December 2011, 50-year-old JoAnne decided to give the gift of life in Dawn’s name.

JoAnne was matched with a recipient under the Center for Organ Recovery & Education’s Living Donor Program and set a date for surgery -ironically, four years to the day after she had first spoken with Dawn about donation. The three-hour surgery resulted in JoAnne’s kidney giving a woman suffering from polycystic kidney disease a chance at more years of life.

After a swift recovery, JoAnne’s life is back to normal, even completing the Charleston Distance Run Relay running 12 miles only four months post-surgery. She has since become a volunteer with CORE and Donate Life WV to inspire others to become donors.

“When life gets crazy, I look at the scar and remember what really matters: I was able to save a life,” Joanne says. “God gives us a spare kidney. Why not help others in need if you can? Now, Dawn lives on through others that came from my kidney exchange string of seven.”

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