Nfld. & Labrador

RCMP officer anxiously awaiting life-altering kidney transplant

RCMP Cpl. Shane Burridge says he can't wait to finally get his kidney transplant, so that he can get back to work.

Shane Burridge wants to raise awareness about 'the gift of life'

RCMP Cpl. Shane Burridge says a kidney transplant would give him his life back, and allow him to go back to the job he loves. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Shane Burridge's heart jumps a little bit every time his phone rings.

The RCMP corporal has been on a waiting list for a new kidney since February.

"You've got to have your bag packed, your cellphone on, because the call could come, and you've got to make a beeline to Halifax as quick as possible," Burridge said.

He hopes the call that would change his life will come soon.

"They won't tell you where you are on the list, just that you're on the list, and that people with my length of time are near the top," Burridge said.

Policing was his 'lifelong dream'

Burridge, who grew up in Elliston, said he knew he wanted to be a police officer when he was in Grade 9.

"I knew at that age that that was the career for me … I made great strides at life to attain that goal," he said.

"So it was a great accomplishment for me to have reached that goal in June of 2000."

RCMP officer waits for kidney transplant

4 years ago
Duration 2:01
RMCP Cpl. Shane Burridge has had his bags packed since February, awaiting the call that he will finally get a kidney transplant. He tells CBC News about his struggles with dialysis, how he stays positive, and how he one day hopes to get back to the force.

Burridge takes a lot of pride in being a Mountie, calling it a career rather than a job. It also runs in the family, with his brother, cousin and brother-in-law also on the force.

He's had postings in Placentia, Nain (which he calls his favourite), and St. John's. He's done plainclothes security and surveillance, but has also had fun VIP assignments, like guarding the prime minister, or doing security in the province for former U.S. president Bill Clinton.

But in 2009, about three years into his service in the city, his health took a turn. He was diagnosed with lupus nephritis, which attacks the kidneys.

"After lupus, you take a handful of medications and you keep going and you keep going, and every four to six weeks, you keep in contact with your nephrologist. And it's constant bloodwork and monitoring," he said.

In December 2012, renal failure set in.

"And a little bit more denial on my part, trying to keep your kidneys for as long as possible," he said.

"February 2013 was when I gave up the ghost and finally went on dialysis."

Dialysis 'takes over your life'

Burridge has been undergoing dialysis now for four years and nine months.

For three-and-a-half years, he was doing dialysis treatments at home — peritoneal dialysis — four times a day, every six hours. 

"But that began to fail, so I wasn't getting the clearances I needed, bloodwork-wise. And I started to feel not as well as I should," he said.

For hemodialysis, this machine at the Waterford Hospital in St. John's takes a patient's blood, cleans it, and returns it to their body. (Submitted by Shane Burridge)

So Burridge started going to the Waterford Hospital for hemodialysis, a procedure where a machine takes your blood, cleans it, and then puts it back into your body.

He gets the treatment three times a week, four hours each time.

"Dialysis days are writeoffs, because you get up at 5:30 in the morning, you go to the hospital, you come back, you get something to eat, you have a nap for probably three hours, you wake up, and it's dark — especially this time of year. And the whole day is shot," he said.

Santa pays a visit to the Waterford Hospital's dialysis unit, where 30 patients undergo treatment at once. (Submitted by Shane Burridge)

Burridge says it's hard, but he has no other choice.

"It's something that I never thought I'd really be involved in or have to be accustomed to," he said. 

"You learn pretty quickly that dialysis certainly takes over your life. And what you could do before as a regular, strong person — you really have to take it easy."

Stepping back

In September 2016, Burridge made the diffcult decision to step back from the job he loves.

Shane Burridge has many RCMP ornaments on his Christmas tree. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

He was still doing at-home dialysis at the time — which included doing treatments in his office.

"I realized that even though that was accommodating, that it was still taking a toll, that the dialysis was failing, I wasn't feeling as good as I should," he said. 

"And you try to put on a strong show, but it just wasn't happening."

Burridge says he would be excited to get that phone call to hop on a plane to Halifax, because a transplant would mean getting his freedom back.

Shane Burridge says his trusty companion Beni isn't your stereotypical police dog, but he jokes that he's still a 'killer.' (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

"[It would mean] no more dialysis … and [I could] go on with my life, and go on with my wife. And live, travel … just the small things," he said.

Burridge is also looking forward to getting back to work.

"I'm not ready to give it up," he said. 

"I've got 17 and a half years in, and like I said, this [is a] lifelong dream."

Raising awareness about organ donation

Burridge says he wants to get his story out to help raise awareness about organ donation, and the problems people face.

According to a recent national report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, in 2016, there were 1,731 kidney transplants and 3,421 people on the waiting list.

More than 37,000 Canadians (outside of Quebec) were living with end-stage kidney disease, with almost 60 per cent receiving some form of dialysis.

"Less than 10 per cent of the people on dialysis actually make the transplant list. And that's really sad," he said. 

"It's hard to make the list. Believe it or not, you have to be a healthy sick person to get on the list."

I've always been a fairly positive person, and I'm not going to let anything like dialysis get me down. I'm going to keep pushing and pushing. And the stronger I get, the more I fight.- Shane Burridge

Burridge knows more than most how important organ donation can be.

"It truly is the gift of life, and there are a lot of people in this province that are awaiting a kidney transplant, and you really don't have anything unless you have your health," he said.

"You could have all the money in the world, but it doesn't matter, it doesn't matter. If you don't have your health, you don't have anything. And I've known that for a very long time."

Despite all the treatments and struggles, Burridge keeps smiling.

"The road is long, but what I'm told is never give up hope," he said. 

"I've always been a fairly positive person, and I'm not going to let anything like dialysis get me down. I'm going to keep pushing and pushing. And the stronger I get, the more I fight. So here I am."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jen White

CBC News

Jen White is a reporter and producer with CBC News in St. John's.

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