Organ Donor Pushes for Paid Leave: “My body needed more time”

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Beth Burbridge can’t help but smile and laugh, beaming with joy, as she scrolls through the pictures and videos saved to her phone. She remembers meeting her kidney recipient, Jackson, and making the announcement she was to give part of herself to him. That was in May. Months later, the kidney donor has recovered from surgery; however, the road wasn’t easy at first. Burbridge had to return to work just six days after her procedure. She’s since been pushing for a new law in Kentucky, to require state government employees have the option for paid leave when donating an organ. Burbridge assures everyone she meets she has no regrets about her decision to give her kidney. “With this small sacrifice that I made, it saved his life. It saved this mom and dad from a worst-case scenario,” Burbridge says. She was inspired to give, when she thought of her own three young sons. Burbridge knew she would have a kind neighbor do the same for them, if ever needed. “The idea that there would ever be an instance where they needed something and I couldn’t help them…it’s heartbreaking,” Burbridge explains. What’s surprising, is the thing that stressed her most in the process: “I started to get really stressed out thinking about trying to return to work six days after donating a kidney.” After much research, she prompted State Representative Jerry Miller (R- Louisville) to file the bill to require paid leave be offered to state employees when they donate an organ such as a kidney, lung, bone marrow, and others. There would also be a tax deduction of up to $10,000 for donor-related costs. Without this becoming law, Burbridge fears the pool of people capable of being live donors is much smaller than it should be in Kentucky. “We’re missing an opportunity to give people the chance,” she says. Rep. Miller admits, it would cost the state money. He says it could also make some money, though. “So, it affects our Medicaid costs to the extent that we get more and more people off of dialysis that means that we have a lower Medicaid cost… and plus, there’s more payroll taxes because they’re able to spend more time earning a living,” explains Miller. Burbridge feels this is the best way to save lives, in the state where federal data shows there are 726 people on the waiting list for a kidney.