After suffering third-degree burns in a house fire and spending more than two years at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, 10-year-old Reese Burdette’s fight still wasn’t over.
Her kidneys were failing, and she would need a transplant in order to survive. Luckily, alumna Alyssa Hussey ’13 was an acceptable match and gave Burdette one of her kidneys in November 2017.
As soon as Alyssa Hussey heard the news that Reese Burdette would need a new kidney, she immediately looked into kidney donations and what they entailed. “I let it swirl around in my head for a few days, then called my mother and told her my plan,” said Hussey. “I just wanted to do whatever I could to help this sweet little girl.”
Hussey had known Burdette for several years prior to the fire, which occurred in 2014. While teaching special education at Johnson- Williams Middle School in Berryville, Virginia, she worked with one of Burdette’s aunts, Jennifer. The two became close friends, and during the summer Hussey would spend time on Jennifer’s family’s farm in Clear Brook, Virginia, and go to the pool with the family. So, she didn’t hesitate when it came to carrying out her act of kindness. Even if she wasn’t a match, Hussey knew at least getting tested would help get the family one step closer to finding a match for Burdette. Hussey felt in her heart that this was something she was meant to do.
Once I found out I was a match, which was a long process, I had no hesitations when the doctors asked me if I wanted to continue with the donation. Through the process, as each new step and test would come my way, I would think back to my childhood and all the things that I got to experience and then think about all the things that Reese was not able to experience because of her health situation at the time. I couldn’t imagine missing out on things from my childhood. Those are the best times, and I wanted to help give her a better quality of life, if I could, and help her dive back into a more normal childhood. Seeing her attitude and demeanor through all she has been through, that was what she deserved.” —Alyssa Hussey ’13
On Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, Hussey entered an operating room at the Johns Hopkins Hospital to give one of her healthy kidneys to Burdette. She doesn’t regret her decision one bit. When asked if she had any advice for those who are thinking about donating an organ, she said, “DO IT! It’s a long process, at least from my experience, but if you are given the chance and opportunity to help save someone’s life, I say do it!”
She said people are also welcome to reach out to her if they have any questions or are considering donating an organ because she wants to help other people through the process.
Not only did Hussey help save someone’s life, she also gained a second family. Hussey checks in regularly with Burdette’s mom and aunt on Burdette’s progress. She loves seeing and hearing about how active Burdette is and learning of all the things Burdette can do now that she couldn’t do prior to the surgery. “Reese is an inspiration to me,” said Hussey. “Her resilience and ‘cando’ attitude is amazing. She continues to inspire me each and every day, and that will never change.”