Then he thought he had kidney stones. There were complications, and he now finds himself, at 49, in kidney failure, receiving four to five hours of dialysis three days a week and in desperate need of a transplant. His kidney currently functions at 10 percent or less of what it should.
“It was totally unexpected,” the lifelong Baltimore resident said.
A day-long medical evaluation confirmed he would be placed on a nationwide transplant list. That may sound like good news, but the doctor then looked at him and said, “Check back in five to eight years. We may have a donor for you,” Burstyn recalled.
He quickly realized he needed to be proactive, so the medical and insurance salesman went to work finding his own donor after learning his wife would not be a good candidate. He set up a Facebook page, Kidney for Harry, and started handing out flyers about himself at area blood drives.
He is on the transplant list at three hospitals, but each of these hospitals will only evaluate one person at a time, so should Burstyn find someone interested in donating, that person often has to wait several weeks just to learn whether or not he or she is eligible.
Eligibility revolves around the health of the potential donor. Matching blood type is not essential, and if the donor is approved, that kidney can go to anyone on the transplant list and a different kidney would go to Burstyn. It’s called a chain, he said.
“As we all know, life isn’t always the way we planned it,” said Burstyn, a member of Ner Tamid Congregation. But he is optimistic.
“There are a lot of good people in this world,” he said.
To find out how to help, go to the Facebook page, Kidney for Harry, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.