Shenandoah, Iowa
Iowa vs. Nebraska, Nov. 26, 2021

Before he was born, local doctors gave Blake Burdorf just a 10% chance of survival, but the Shenandoah boy beat the odds after a kidney transplant and other care at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

“We didn't have our first ultrasound until we were 20 weeks along,” Blake’s mother, Jamie, recalls. “We found out on the same day that A, we were having twins and B, there was what they called slight dilation around baby A's kidneys.”

The family lived in central Iowa at the time.

“They referred us to a specialist in Des Moines,” Jamie remembers. “We went down there a week later and they said your baby A has a 10% chance of survival. There were many tears shed after we got that news.”

Blake’s twin brother, Bowen, was born healthy, while Blake suffered from kidney failure due to posterior urethral valves that formed incorrectly in utero. The abnormality causes urine to flow backwards, instead of being released into the amniotic sac to assist with vital organ development.

First Burdorf amily photo
First Burdorf family photo.

Within 24 hours, Blake was taken by ambulance to UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

“They were very worried about his lungs,” Blake’s mother recalls. “so they kept having to help him breathe.”

We live four hours away. There's a children's hospital in Omaha that we could easily transfer our care to. The staff at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital is just a really caring team and every experience we've had from day one to today is that you can tell people care.

Aaron Burdorf, Blake's father

Jamie stayed behind with Bowen, while her husband, Aaron, went to Iowa City to be with Blake until she was able to join them.

“They brought in the pediatric nephrology team pretty quickly,” Jamie remembers. “They decided to put a dialysis catheter in and they gave him a feeding tube.  We just kind of kept him comfortable and were just literally waiting for his kidneys to stop working.”

Jamie and Bowen then stayed in Iowa City with Blake, while Aaron and the couple’s two older children visited on weekends.

Blake and his twin brother, Bowen
Blake and his twin brother, Bowen.

“I called Bowen my co-pilot because wherever I went, he went too. And the nurses in the NICU were phenomenal,” Jamie recalls. “They were so good with him.”

Blake spent 70 days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and was on dialysis for 2½ years before he was big enough for a kidney transplant. The search for a living donor took a twist with a Facebook post.

“We'd hit a lot of dead ends trying to get Blake a kidney,” Jamie recalls. “I wasn't even his blood type match. They thought Aaron's blood pressure was a smidge too high. And we were kind of like, ‘What are we going to do?’”

Another mom whose son found a living kidney donor posted about Blake’s need for a kidney.

“I got a message in my Facebook Messenger that said, ‘Hi. My name's Steph. I'm interested in being your son's donor,’” Jamie remembers. “Who really does that for somebody they don't know?’"

Blake Burdorf's scan
Blake's scan from 2013.

Surgeons repaired his bladder at the same time Blake received the new kidney in 2013, but shortly after his transplant, he developed an infection. 

“The scariest day ever for us was when he went septic a month after transplant and we were just minutes from losing him,” Jamie recalls. “I have never seen anyone look that ashen.”

Blake remained hospitalized for several months, and the infections eventually subsided.

Now 10, Blake enjoys baseball and other sports, makes friends wherever he goes and loves cheering on the Hawkeyes, even after the family moved to western Iowa.

“We live four hours away. There's a children's hospital in Omaha that we could easily transfer our care to,” Aaron says, adding they chose to stay with UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital. “It's just a really caring team and every experience we've had from Day One until today is that you can tell people care.”

Blake Burdorf with baseball medal
Blake shows off his baseball medal.

A pediatric nephrologist is a doctor who specializes in kidney disorders in babies, children and adolescents. Unlike adults, children are still growing, so it’s important to see someone with special training and expertise in pediatric kidney and urinary problems. We are home of the most comprehensive kidney treatment program in the state, including the only Pediatric Dialysis Center.

Twelve current and former University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital patients are ready for the spotlight as the Kid Captain program returns for the 2021 Iowa Hawkeye football season. Learn more about this partnership with the Iowa Hawkeyes football team honoring pediatric patients and to celebrate their inspirational stories.