Rallying around those in need

Alumni aid friends, family with transplants

“If someone needs something and it’s in your power to take care of that need, you just do it without another thought.”

He’d rather be riding, roping or running down bad guys. Instead, Dave Butts spends three days a week undergoing a grueling kidney dialysis.

Obviously, he’s extremely grateful to be living after a near-fatal kidney failure 18 months ago. But everyone who knows Dave now, or when he was at OC in the late 80s, can smile over the fact that he’s not a guy to just sit around.

Dave is also grateful for his OC family, who has rallied around him and popped up in unexpected ways, especially when he was accepted for a kidney transplant in Oklahoma City.

The same can be said for other members of our OC family who have gone through a kidney transplant, including Les Barr (86), who received a kidney from his sister, Jana (Barr 88) Rucker, in January 2010.

Les was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at age four and lost his eyesight at age 18. Many classmates remember his beloved black lab service dog that went to class with him and participated in commencement.

When Les was put on kidney dialysis at age 46, the wheels started turning to get him on a transplant list. Jana volunteered to be his donor. During that process, another OC connection appeared: Berta (Hamm 80) Graham, the nurse manager of kidney and pancreas transplant at Nazih Zuhdi.

Berta came to OC long before it had a nursing program, and took all of the classes she could here before earning her nursing degree elsewhere.

“Having Berta as our coordinator shows that our OC family is bigger than we realize and that we are brought together in many ways,” Jana said. “It gave us peace to know the kind of people we were dealing with.”

The transplant was successful; Les’ kidney worked immediately, allowing him to be untethered from so many hours of dialysis.

Jana has become a cheerleader for live donation.

“It’s not that bad,” she insists. She told that to Dave as he worried about the health implications for his kidney donor.

“Practically, I look at it in the same way as if I had two cars and my brother needed one. Of course I’d give it to him,” Jana said. “If someone needs something and it’s in your power to take care of that need, you just do it without another thought.”

Still, Berta said that living donors are special people.

“For whatever reason, God gave us two kidneys and we really only need one,” she said. “If you are willing to go through the evaluation process and give a kidney, it’s a miraculous thing.”

Dave’s donor likely will be his wife, Shelley. Dave sheds tears as he talks about her donation.

He’s also humbled and honored by the many family and friends who are supporting them … from his friend Doug Hooten, who grabbed a restaurant full of former classmates to encourage him before his first transplant meeting in Oklahoma City, to others who have put him on their prayer lists, check on Shelley and their kids, and help him in more ways than he ever dreamed possible.

“When I was in school, I just thought it was about winning the all-sports trophy and Spring Sing,” he chuckled.

To pay it forward, Dave is talking with former classmates about forming a group that would support any OC alum struggling with catastrophic illness.

Until then and until his transplant – hopefully this fall – Dave is plotting his return to rodeo roping and law enforcement in Cherokee County. He definitely plans to savor every minute with his family and friends.

“I thank God that my folks sent me to ‘OCC.’ It sure has paid off for me,” he said.

By Dawn Shelton