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.”

Brandy Barkey Sweeney
Heart Recipient

Joanne Burka
Living Kidney Donor

Maren Foster
Liver Recipient

Belinda Griggs
Kidney Recipient

Lisa Johnson
Donor Mother

Charles Cranford
Kidney Recipient

Jody Miller
Donor Mother

Nancy Jividen
Donor Mother

Cybele Boehm
Kidney Recipient

Tracy Reifer
Liver Recipient

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