W. MI family celebrates third generation of kidney donations

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The gift of life runs deep for one West Michigan family, who is now celebrating three generations of kidney donations.

Multiple members of the Crittendon and Burggraaf families have had to deal with polycystic kidney disease, which Dr. Mark Boelkins at Mercy Health Kidney Transplant Center said is one of the most hereditary conditions in medicine.

Because of this, they have spent a lot of time at the Mercy Health Kidney Transplant Center in Grand Rapids. The hospital completed 137 kidney transplants last year, making it one of the 50 busiest programs in the country.

There’s a number attached to each kidney transplant recipient. But for this family, it’s so much more than just a number.

Boelkins has been with them from the beginning when he treated Marlys Burggraaf for everything starting with dialysis to her transplant. 

“I’ve been involved in all the subsequent children and now grandchildren,” said Boelkins.

From number 1,036 through 2,101 — four of Marlys’ adult children gathered to celebrate their successful transplants.

“I was the one who passed things down further,” said Travis Crittendon’s mother, Sharon Crittendon.

On Monday, 44-year-old Travis Crittendon became the sixth member of the family to receive a kidney.

His gift — from his second cousin Kevin.

“When I woke up on Monday I already felt better. I have a clearer head, can process things a little bit easier,” said Crittendon.

Emotions ran high as Travis thanked Kevin–a gift that will forever bind them together.

“The hardest thing for me is having him go through what he put himself through. Just to give something to me to get my health back,” said Travis Crittendon.

As Travis Crittendon gets his health back–he is leaving something behind.

When he started growing his beard, he pledged he’d shave it off when he received a new kidney.

He said by the time he leaves the hospital on Friday–the beard will be gone.

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