After spending about 100 days in isolation following a kidney transplant, 10-year-old Mercersburg girl Reese Burdette is back in the swing of things.
For the first time in about three months, the Mercersburg Elementary fifth-grader was able to trade places with the iPad-and-robot combination that allowed her to attend class virtually, and join her classmates back at school on Friday, March 2.
Reese’s mother, Claire Burdette, said it was just like any other day for her daughter, who added she was excited to be able to attend classes in person.
“She’s a lot easier to get up in the mornings,” she said.
Reese had spent two years at Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in Baltimore, recovering from severe burns and other injuries she received in a fire at her grandparents’ house over Memorial Day weekend in 2014. This Sunday will be the two-year anniversary of her homecoming; it was a huge event, with people decked out in Reese’s favorite color purple lining the Mercersburg streets to see her arrive.
Last September, Reese found out she was in the final stages of renal failure and would need a kidney transplant.
For the past few months, the 10-year-old has been recovering from the kidney transplant kidney she received in the middle of November. Despite a period in the beginning where doctors worried she might be rejecting the new organ, Claire said overall the recovery “was fantastic.”
Reese is still visiting Johns Hopkins about every other week to get regular bloodwork and to monitor her health, but “her quality of life is so much better,” according to her mother. Since the surgery, she is no longer reliant on machines to keep her healthy, her dialysis port was removed and she has no diet limitations, which means she can eat whatever she wants.
“She enjoys everything just like a kid would, and you see her getting stronger all the time,” Claire said.
However, Reese still has to drink 3 1/2 liters of water every day as part of her recovery, which can be a struggle, Claire added. The average person drinks about four cups a day, according to U.S. National Health Nutrition Examination Survey.
Reese will also need to take daily medications every 12 hours for the rest of her life.
But none of this stops the young girl from living her life. The daughter of dairy farmers – her father’s side of the family runs Windy Knoll View Holsteins and her mother’s side runs Waverley Jerseys in Virginia, both well-known among dairy breeders – is spending time practicing in dance class and is working with her calf, which she hopes to show in a few weeks, in addition to going to school. She will also celebrate her 11th birthday on Tuesday, March 20.
“She’s almost a normal 11-year-old,” Claire said.
The Mercersburg mom said because a family friend was willing to give a piece of herself – her kidney – to Reese to help improve and save her life, she has a new appreciation for the kindness of others.
“As a parent you want your child to be healthy and strong, and just to see her getting back to that is just so rewarding for us all,” she said.
Now that Reese is back to school, Claire said the next step is getting her trach – a device in her neck to help her breathe – removed, and just continuing to help her get stronger.
And with summer just around the corner, days by the pool and visits to waterparks are also in Reese’s future.
“That’s our next vision,” Claire said.