10 years after transplant, kidney recipient celebrates with donor

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Many families and friends this time of year are getting together for the holidays, but for the Etten and Burge families, it’s about celebrating life.

Nick Etten, left, and John Burge, right, at the time of the kidney donation in late 2009 (KCRG File)

For the past decade, the two families would get dinner together on December 13 as a celebration of the day Nick Etten gave his kidney to Jack Burge.

“It only took a kidney donation to make a lifelong friend,” Burge said, jokingly. “He’s now part of the family.”

This year is the 10th anniversary of that surgery. It all started after Burge’s son made a Facebook post and Etten responded immediately after seeing it.

“I had no idea who he was at the time, or that my friend’s dad was sick,” he said. “I’ve got to experience John’s extended life.”

Having gone from not knowing each other to being like family, the two now spend a lot of time together: Iowa football games, organ donations, and family events while also discussing the need for organ donors.

Currently, in the state of Iowa, there are more than 620 people in need of organs.

“It’s nothing to fear you know we should all sign up and I’ll be a part of it,” Etten said.

It makes a connection that lasts a lifetime.

“There are none of the people in this world like Nick,” Burge said.