Dr. Jarralynne Agee honored by Red Cross for donating her kidney to former NFL star Gary Burley

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Dr. Jarralynne Agee at the Red Cross Blood Drive Telethon. Photo via Nathan Watson for Bham Now

Nearly a year ago, Dr. Jarralynne Agee donated a kidney to former NFL star Gary Burley. Since then, her donation has not only transformed both her and Gary’s lives, but the lives of thousands more in Birmingham.

Battle After Battle

Gary Burley alongside his friends, Dr. Jarralynne Agee and Mayor Randall Woodfin. Photo via Gary Burley on Facebook
Gary Burley alongside his friends, Dr. Jarralynne Agee and Mayor Randall Woodfin. Photo via Gary Burley on Facebook

For 10 years, Gary Burley starred as a NFL defensive end with the Cincinnati Bengals and the Atlanta Falcons. After he retired, he was forced to fight again–this time, against cancer.

Although Gary won his battle against cancer, the chemotherapy presented him with another challenge. Since chemotherapy damaged his kidneys beyond repair, Gary had to undergo dialysis.

Gary spent the next three years–four hours a day, three days a week–undergoing dialysis and hoping for a life-saving kidney donation.

A Savior Appears

Dr. Jarralynne Agee at the Red Cross Blood Drive Telethon. Photo via Nathan Watson for Bham Now
Dr. Jarralynne Agee at the Red Cross Blood Drive Telethon. Photo via Nathan Watson for Bham Now

Although Dr. Agee can’t pinpoint the first time that she and Gary met, they have been fast friends for nearly 10 years. When she heard the news about Gary’s kidneys, she knew she wanted to help in any way she could.

Then, Dr. Agee discovered that she and Gary had compatible kidneys. Although she only shared the news with two people–her boss, Mayor Woodfin, and her husband–Dr. Agee felt incredibly blessed that she was able to share life.

At a friendly get-together, Dr. Agee handed Gary a booklet of photos of all the events they’d attended together over the past decade. On the last page, Dr. Agee had written, “I am O so POSITIVE that we’re a perfect match.” Gary burst into tears.

Overwhelming Impact

Gary Burley, Dr. Jarralynne Agee & Mayor Woodfin. Photo via City of Birmingham
Gary Burley, Dr. Jarralynne Agee & Mayor Woodfin. Photo via City of Birmingham

When Dr. Agee chose to donate her kidney, she knew that she would be forever changing both her and Gary Burley’s lives. However, her choice had a much wider impact.

In the wake of Dr. Agee’s donation, Mayor Randall Woodfin signed a human resources policy that gives City of Birmingham employees up to four weeks of paid leave when they donate an organ. The policy allows thousands of current and future city employees to donate without the added stress of financial impact.

“When I was told that the city was going to change their policy to encourage people to give, not just for me but going forward, I was so overwhelmed that I burst into tears.”

Dr. Jarralynne Agee

The Red Cross by Their Side

Members of the Red Cross man the phones during their blood drive telethon on Wednesday, January 15. Photo via Nathan Watson for Bham Now

“Since the Red Cross was involved, I knew that they would be right there if Gary or I needed a blood transfusion after the surgery. It was one less thing I needed to worry about.”

Dr. Jarralynne Agee

Throughout the entire process, the American Red Cross was there for anything that Gary or Dr. Agee needed. However, that isn’t just limited to the strictly physical side of things.

Donating a kidney is a scary experience most of us probably won’t go through. Luckily, the Red Cross connected Dr. Agee with a network of donors that could answer any questions and ease her mind.

Honored by the Red Cross

“I am so honored to be recognized for something that I was called by God to do. I am grateful for this honor and for the American Red Cross”

Dr. Jarralynne Agee

Each year, the Red Cross selects five heroes based on their outstanding contributions to their community. This year’s heroes are:

  • Biomedical Services – Dr. Jarralynne Agee
  • Disaster Services – Kelly Caruso
  • Service to the Armed ForcesGeneral Charles Krulak
  • Training Services – John Sherman
  • Volunteer Services – Jeff Stone

Dr. Agee will be honored for her life-saving donation at the American Red Cross Gala on Friday, April 3 at the Grand Bohemian Hotel. To attend, you can purchase tickets online.

Make sure to share your experience with the American Red Cross by tagging @bhamnow on social media.

Sponsored by:

  • Tennessee native who fell in love with Birmingham during college. Graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 2019. Passionate about Birmingham and its continued growth.