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"Then it hit me: If [the character] can donate, could I donate?" organ donor Katie Burris said

By Tiare Dunlap
Updated July 11, 2016 04:40 PM
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Credit: St. Joseph's Hospital

Last fall, Katie Burris was watching an old episode of Grey’s Anatomy when she had a life-changing idea.

“It was something I didn’t really know you could do, but then someone just randomly on that Grey’s episode decided to donate a kidney,” Burris, 27, told the Arizona Republic. “Then it hit me: If she can donate, could I donate?”

Burris began to research the requirements and risks of donating a kidney to a total stranger.

“It was kind of risk versus benefits, and with my family there is no history of diabetes or hypertension and any kind of kidney disease,” she said. “I just didn’t see a reason to not donate.”

What began as an impulse led to months of tests, evaluations and meetings with doctors. Still, the nurse from Scottsdale, Arizona’s determination to complete the selfless act never wavered, and on March 22, she underwent the transplant surgery.

“The only reason I did this was so that someone else could use my kidney, so that was really all I wanted,” she said.

As it turns out, the person her donation reached, Jim Ensslin, had struggled with a rare kidney disease for nearly 20 years before he qualified for a spot on the kidney transplant list.

While most Arizonians have to wait anywhere from three to five years on the transplant list, according to St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Ensslin waited just a few months before receiving Burris’s kidney.

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“I was really lucky that this happened so soon so that I didn’t have to go into dialysis,” Ensslin said. “I felt fatigued and run-down and tired, and it was hard for me to do a lot of things.”

After the donation, Ensslin said he realized just how badly he had felt for years. “I feel much better now, like I’m starting all over again, almost.”

Soon after their surgeries, Ensslin and Burris met for the first time.

“It was surreal. It was really validating, and it was nice to see him doing well and how grateful he was. It was awesome,” Burris said. “I would donate if I could again.”