Just about everybody is familiar with Paul Butler, known for his smooth voice in radio and TV news, for mentoring youth and, most recently, handling public communications for the Wicomico County Board of Education.
On Facebook, he has nearly 5,000 friends, and often shares photos of his wife, Valerie, their children and grandchildren. He’s always smiling and offering uplifting messages.
So, it was a surprise when he announced he needs a kidney transplant.
“My kidneys are failing. I’ve been dealing with chronic kidney disease for the last few years and now preparing for dialysis to keep me alive. Along with constant prayer, there is another option, and although I don’t like to ask for help, this option could help me live a longer, normal life. If I could find a match and someone willing to donate a kidney, this could happen within a few months and would greatly increase the length and quality of life for me and my family,” Butler wrote.
By last weekend, the post had been shared more than 860 times, with 527 people commenting and 944 sending thumbs up, heart and hug emoticons. He has received many offers from those eager to be tested to see if they are a match.
Immediately, family members said yes, of course they would donate, but two were disqualified because of health conditions. The family is waiting to see if his son and one daughter are matches.
“My kids offered right away. They didn’t hesitate at all. I have had cousins and aunts and uncles who said they want to see if they are matches. If somebody gets tested and they are not a match for me, the hospital will say, ‘You aren’t a match for Paul, but you might be for other people. Would you consider donating to help save this person?’ There is this cross checking they have,” he said during a recent conversation with the Salisbury Independent.
“I’m OK. I’m doing OK. I’m having some issues facing me but I know God has it all under control. My goal is to get a kidney transplant. Dialysis is temporary until you get a new kidney. Dialysis is either going to a center three times a week to have your blood cleaned or doing it every day from home. I haven’t started yet but I’m in the process of getting a catheter in my stomach, a peritoneal catheter, so I can start dialysis from home. You hook up to a machine every night and it cleans your blood while you’re sleeping,” he explained.
Butler, 60, has been diabetic since 1998 and in 2019 his doctor detected a decline in his kidney function.
“I didn’t notice anything, but keep in mind it’s a silent disease,” he said.
When his kidney function dropped to 19 percent, his nephrologist told him to start preparing for dialysis.
“I was shocked it had dropped so far, that it declined so rapidly. But God says, it says in the Bible, not to worry because God has already ordained our steps. Whatever he has in store for me, I am ready for it. This past January, my doctor said my kidney function was at 19 or 18 percent. I had some tests done last month and the doctor said, ‘Now is the time for you to meet with the kidney transplant team at the University of Maryland.’ They took me through everything I need to know for a kidney transplant. The doctor said now is the time to reach out to people and see if there is a donor,” Butler said.
Nationwide, there are 100,000 people waiting for a new kidney and the normal wait time for those on the transplant list is four to six years.
“If you get a living donor, somebody who can donate now, you can get a kidney within a few months,” he said, adding the donor’s medical bills are paid and recovery time for the donor is about two weeks. Anyone interested in being a donor can see ummclivingdonation.org and search for “Paul Butler 10/06/1962.”
“I’m really humbled that so many people have contacted me and said, ‘Look, I see what you’re going through and I would love to be tested to see if I’m a match,’” Butler said.
He said he feels well and is continuing to work, although he tires easily. He walks or rides his bicycle every day to stay in shape and maintain stamina, although some days back pain is bad enough to send him home from work, although everybody at the Board of Education has been understanding, he said.
It’s important for him to keep his medical insurance, not only for the cost of surgery, but to cover expensive medication he will need for the rest of his life to prevent his body from rejecting the new kidney.
“Emotionally, I’m doing good,” he said.
“I have a good, strong support system at home with my wife and kids. There are days when I'm not down, but I just don’t feel well. I am still living a normal life. I am getting the catheter pretty soon,” he said.
“And you know, we live in a community where people help each other. If there’s an illness or a tragedy they want to help and they all come together. I love that about this community."