Kacey Burke is an energetic 45-year-old determined to live life to the fullest.
Her positive outlook is contrary to what you’d expect of someone who, at age 21, was diagnosed with an inherent life-threatening condition known as polycystic kidney disease, and she will undergo an organ transplant soon.
“I’m the luckiest person in the world,” Burke said. “Sure, the disease is bad luck, but since I have it and have reached the transplant stage, the outpouring of support and how many people were willing to give me a live organ donation just blew my mind. I feel like a rock star.”
Burke might feel like a rock star, but in real life, she’s a horticulturalist for Riverfront Park.
“I love my job. I love the people,” she said with a beaming smile planted on her tan face.
When her condition worsened, Burke “kept it pretty confidential until I pulled myself together. Then word got out, and people came out of the woodwork.”
“One friend called me and said, ‘You can have my kidney.’ He went through all the testing, and we weren’t a match. But because of the testing, he found out he had bone cancer. He was so happy it was discovered early so he could do something about it.”
Burke leaned forward and smiled, “Everything happens for a reason.”
Polycystic kidney disease is the most common life-threatening genetic disease in the United States. According to the PKD Foundation (www.pkdcure.org), more than 600,000 people in the United States – and 12.5 million worldwide – battle this disease, outranking well-known diseases such as Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, hemophilia and sickle cell anemia combined.
Burke becomes highly charged when discussing organ donations – and for good reason. She will become the third in her family to receive an organ transplant.
“My brother received an organ transplant in 2003 and my sister received one from a nonrelated live donor in 2004. And then there’s me,” Burke said. “The lucky gift for me comes from a first cousin in Iowa.”
Currently 76,118 people nationwide are waiting for kidney transplants, with 1,138 of those in Washington (www.unos.org)
“In Spokane, 206 people are waiting for kidney transplants. Spokane averages 50 transplants a year,” Burke said.
“Organ donation is the main thing. When people are educated, they’ll understand how important this is.
“Remember,” Burke said with a smile, “everything happens for a reason.”