September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
On Jan. 31, 2013, Bertram donated one of her kidneys to her older brother, Rick Burg, who was dealing with Polycystic Kidneys. Bertram milks 50 cows in a stanchion barn with her husband, Randy, and their children, Amanda (20), Ashley (18), Tyler (16) and Travis (13), on their farm in Stearns County near Spring Hill, Minn.
Bertram has had aunts, uncles, cousins and even her mom dealing with the disease. She also has another brother that has the disease and a sister that could be a potential donor.
"We've been tested a couple of times and I didn't have it," Bertram said. "We always joked with our brothers to be nice to us, because they might need us one day."
That day did come.
Rick found out 20 years ago that he had the hereditary kidney disease where the kidneys are full of cysts and shut down. After realizing her brother would be in need of a transplant, Bertram started to do numerous tests to find out if she would be eligible as a donor for her brother.
"On New Year's Eve last year, I found out I was a match," Bertram said. "One month later we were able to do the procedure."
The Sunday before they had surgery, Bertram and Rick went out for supper.
"I asked him if he was nervous, and he told me, 'I'm more worried about you,'" Bertram said. "I jokingly told him that I was tougher than he thought."
Bertram went in one day before the surgery for a final check up and received a green ribbon blanket for being a donor.
"It was really neat to get that," Bertram said.
After three hours of surgery on Jan. 31, 2013, Bertram and Rick were reunited.
"He asked for a wheelchair to come see me," Bertram said.
Rick made his way into the recovery room, saw his sister and held her hand.
"My sister-in-law, Marian, posted a picture of that moment and wrote, together again in more ways than one," Bertram said.
This was not the first time one of Bertram's siblings has donated a kidney to another family member. In fact, 29 years ago, Bertram's sister, Lori Leiser, donated her kidney to their mother, Kathy Burg.
"I hope mine will last in Rick as long as my sister's has in my mom," Bertram said. "Knowing that I helped him was huge."
For Rick, this was something he will never forget.
"It's a life changing experience," Rick said. "It was a great feeling to know she would step up and do this. It has made me realize to take what life give you and deal with it one day at a time."
Three days after the surgery, both Bertram and Rick were discharged from the hospital, but Rick had to stay near by for a few days for extra blood tests.
Recovering from the surgery was not easy for Bertram since she is an active member of the Bertrams' dairy farm.
"The hardest part was the first week," Bertram said. "The cows had gotten out and I couldn't go help Randy."
Six weeks after the surgery, Bertram decided to give chores a try.
"It didn't work very well," Bertram said. "The incision was above the belly button, and it was three inches long. My stomach muscles were still weak."
A week later, Bertram found at least one thing she was able to help with in the barn.
"I was able to wash the milking units," Bertram said. "It was just that though. Randy didn't let me do too much, and I wasn't able to lift anything over 10 pounds."
Two months after the surgery, Bertram returned back to her job with the Melrose school district where she serves as a special education paraprofessional.
With the whole experience behind her, Bertram is now a firm believer in having donor listed on her driver's license
"The amount of people you can help is unbelievable," Bertram said. "One person can help 130 people just by having donor on your driver's license."
Bertram isn't the only one in her family who has done this.
"All of my kids have done it too," Bertram said. "We never lectured them on it. They just naturally did it. Both of my sister's boys have it on their licenses, too."
With the one-year anniversary coming up, Rick decided to give Bertram a special present for Christmas. It was a snow globe with an angel inside and the inscription, "Thank you for the greatest gift. 1-31-13" on the bottom.
"Having her donate a kidney to me is the bravest gift I could ever get," Rick said.
Rick and Bertram are also planning to spend some quality time together on the anniversary.
"We are going out to eat," Bertram said. "We don't know too many details, but we are getting together."
Looking back on the whole experience, Bertram wouldn't do anything different.
"Family is a big thing for me. This is something I would do again if I could," Bertram said. "It is just something you do. He would have done the same for me."
To Submit an Event Sign in first
No calendar events have been scheduled for today.