Three kidney transplants and 43 years later, Bruce Byrd lives and loves life

Monday, January 24, 2022

From left: Chelsey Byrd Lewallen, Bruce’s youngest daughter; Bruce Byrd; Candace Byrd Donald, Bruce’s oldest daughter; and Patty Byrd, Bruce’s wife of 43 years.

Bruce Byrd is 65 years old and has been living with IGA neuropathy, also known as Berger’s disease, for 43 years. He learned of his diagnosis weeks after graduating college and marrying his wife, Patty.

Berger’s disease is a kidney disease that occurs when IgA, a protein that protects the body from bacteria or viruses, build up in the kidneys, causing inflammation that damages the tiny filters inside the kidneys. There is no cure for IgA nephropathy, and those who are diagnosed work to prevent or delay end-stage kidney disease. Treatment options for those who progress to end-stage kidney disease include kidney transplant and dialysis.

Byrd said medical breakthroughs have kept him alive for 43 years, including three kidney transplants. His latest kidney transplant occurred on Aug. 31, 2021, and took place at B-UMCT through our Kidney and Pancreas Transplant program.

Bruce’s first transplant occurred on Halloween, 1989 at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver, CO. His first kidney transplant lasted for 17 years. In 2006 at the age of 50, he received his second transplant from a Non-Related Living Donor at the UC Health University of Colorado Medical Center. His second transplant lasted 14 years.

“The Banner transplant team is the best I’ve had the opportunity to work with, and I can say that with the experience of a three times transplant recipient,” Byrd said.

For his most recent kidney transplant, Byrd was multi listed, waiting for the next available opportunity for a kidney transplant, at three hospitals: UC Health University of Colorado Hospital, Nebraska Medicine and B-UMCT.

“My whole family all had great feelings about the abdominal transplant program at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson,” he said.

When he met with Dr. Robert C. Harland, surgical director of solid organ transplantation at Banner – University Medicine Tucson, and the rest of the Kidney and Pancreas Transplant team in Tucson, he and his family knew Byrd would have his next transplant done in Tucson.

“The Banner transplant team is the best I’ve had the opportunity to work with, and I can say that with the experience of a three times transplant recipient,” Byrd said.

“When I first met with Dr. Harland and the team for my kidney transplant evaluation, I knew beforehand that I was going to get transplanted in Tucson, and so did the rest of my family,” Byrd said.

“All the nurses, Dr. Harland, Dr. Venkatesh Ariyamuthu, Dr. Asjad Sardar, Samantha, Christine, Nicole, the physician assistants, nurse practitioners and the entire team, are a very special group of people," Byrd said. "Their bedside manner, professionalism and incredible care was second to none."

“My third gift of life will allow me to spend quality time with my family, friends, and grandchildren. Not to mention, getting back on my skis this winter," Byrd said. "When I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Harland in June of 2021, Dr. Harland said, ‘We'll have you skiing this winter. It's going to happen.'”

Paying his gratitude forward, Bruce Byrd has generously donated $10,000 to the UArizona COM-T White Coat and Stethoscopes Campaign and will attend the 2022 White Coat Ceremony in Tucson in July, in coordination with his one-year transplant clinic check-up appointment with the Banner transplant team.