The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Former NFL Player Gary Burley Needs Your Help in the Fight Against Kidney Disease

Former NFL Player Gary Burley Needs Your Help in the Fight Against Kidney Disease

Gary Burley needs your help!

Gary Burley was a tremendous defensive lineman in the NFL. He played 10 years for the Cincinnati Bengals and Atlanta Falcons. Gary contributed hugely to Johnny Majors and Jackie Sherrill’s building the Pittsburgh Panthers college football program into a national champion. He would have been a great player to bet on when betting on football!

But what’s the most important thing to know about Gary Burley?

If you ever met him or talked to him, that would be easy. The most important thing to know about Gary is what a fine man he is. And beyond the football field, Gary is an asset to everybody he meets.

Since retiring from football, Gary has had to battle multiple health scares. He met them all with a smile and determination. Gary has fought through cancer but now faces another test. He needs a kidney.

Chronic kidney failure affects around 100,000 people a year and only around 17,000 get the kidney they so desperately need to continue to live. Most people in this situation would just be worried about themselves. Not Gary. He has been on a crusade to let everybody know about the dangers of kidney disease. His goal is to find himself a donor, but it is also to warn people how easily it could be them.

Let’s look at the signs and symptoms of kidney failure

1) Leg & Back Pain

2) Urinary Urgency

3) Fatigue

4) Swelling

5) Irritated Skin

6) Nausea

7) Metallic Flavor

8) Anemia

9) Confusion

10) Shortness of Breath

11) High Blood Potassium

12) Seizures or Coma

13) Sleep Disturbances

14) Excessive Thirst

15) Sexual Problems

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms of kidney disease.


Chronic kidney disease occurs when a disease or condition impairs kidney function, causing kidney damage to worsen over several months or years.

Diseases and conditions that cause chronic kidney disease include:

  • Type 1 or type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Glomerulonephritis (gloe-mer-u-low-nuh-FRY-tis), an inflammation of the kidney’s filtering units (glomeruli)
  • Interstitial nephritis (in-tur-STISH-ul nuh-FRY-tis), an inflammation of the kidney’s tubules and surrounding structures
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Prolonged obstruction of the urinary tract, from conditions such as enlarged prostate, kidney stones and some cancers
  • Vesicoureteral (ves-ih-koe-yoo-REE-tur-ul) reflux, a condition that causes urine to back up into your kidneys
  • Recurrent kidney infection, also called pyelonephritis (pie-uh-low-nuh-FRY-tis)

Risk factors

Factors that may increase your risk of chronic kidney disease include:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Being African-American, Native American or Asian-American
  • A family history of kidney disease
  • Abnormal kidney structure
  • Older age


Chronic kidney disease can affect almost every part of your body. Potential complications may include:

  • Fluid retention, which could lead to swelling in your arms and legs, high blood pressure, or fluid in your lungs (pulmonary edema)
  • A sudden rise in potassium levels in your blood (hyperkalemia), which could impair your heart’s ability to function and may be life-threatening
  • Heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease
  • Weak bones and an increased risk of bone fractures
  • Anemia
  • Decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction or reduced fertility
  • Damage to your central nervous system, which can cause difficulty concentrating, personality changes or seizures
  • A decreased immune response, which makes you more vulnerable to infection
  • Pericarditis, an inflammation of the saclike membrane that envelops your heart (pericardium)
  • Pregnancy complications that carry risks for the mother and the developing fetus
  • Irreversible damage to your kidneys (end-stage kidney disease), eventually requiring either dialysis or a kidney transplant for survival


To reduce your risk of developing kidney disease:

  • Follow instructions on over-the-counter medications. When using nonprescription pain relievers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), follow the instructions on the package. Taking too many pain relievers could lead to kidney damage and generally should be avoided if you have kidney disease. Ask your doctor whether these drugs are safe for you.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. If you’re at a healthy weight, work to maintain it by being physically active most days of the week. If you need to lose weight, talk with your doctor about strategies for healthy weight loss. Often this involves increasing daily physical activity and reducing calories.
  • Don’t smoke. Cigarette smoking can damage your kidneys and make existing kidney damage worse. If you’re a smoker, talk to your doctor about strategies for quitting smoking. Support groups, counseling and medications can all help you to stop.
  • Manage your medical conditions with your doctor’s help. If you have diseases or conditions that increase your risk of kidney disease, work with your doctor to control them. Ask your doctor about tests to look for signs of kidney damage.

Helping Gary Burley

As I’ve written, Gary needs a kidney. Does donating a kidney increase the risk of getting sick? Exactly how safe is donating a kidney?

Giving a kidney to someone who needs a transplant is a very generous thing to do. But can it lead to kidney problems in the donor? Most people do not experience health problems as a result of a donation. A large study of the long-term effects of kidney donation had good news for people who donate kidneys. Doctors reported that living kidney donors can expect to live full, healthy lives. Donors had very few long-term health problems, in most cases. The study looked at almost 4,000 people who donate one of their two kidneys since 1963. Their long-term survival rate was similar to non-donors and they did not have an increased risk of kidney failure. Researchers at the University of Minnesota examined the long-term results for health diagnoses and causes of death. The living donation means that a living person donates a kidney to someone in need of a transplant. The donor is most often a close family member, such as a parent, child, brother or sister. A donor can also be a more distant family member, spouse, friend or co-worker. Non-directed donors, those who donate anonymously and do not know their recipients, are also becoming more common.

Kidney donors’ survival was similar to that of the general population when matched for age, sex, and race or ethnic group. Of 3,700 donors, the need for dialysis or transplant developed in only 11 donors, which is actually a lower rate than in the general population. Donors reported their quality of life was “excellent.”

Contact UAB Medical Center if you want to see if you are a match for Gary Burley. Specify Gary Burley and Gary’s birthdate 12-8-52


Helping others if you can’t help Gary

If you contact UAB and are not a match for someone else, there’s is a very good chance you could be a match for another person.

Jermaine Finger is one of those people that need help. Jermaine was the special team’s coach with the Owensboro Rage professional football team in 2013. He has needed a kidney since June of 2016. It’s desperation time for this good man.

He’s a B blood type. He is listed at IU Health in Indianapolis, Indiana. His living donor coordinator is Sharla Ping (800-382-4601) and his non-living donor transplant coordinator is Tina Ray (317-948-3248). Indiana University Health Kidney Transplant Unit recognizes Paired Donation(swap), so anyone can donate on his behalf.

Jermaine is a great guy who I have been friends with since 2012. He has a huge heart and is a special man. His DOB is 4/10/75.  Thank You.

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