When Butch Wright was told in January 2011 that his kidneys were only functioning at 9 percent, he knew his life would never be the same.
Only 60 years old, Wright began dialysis three times a week, sitting for four hours while a machine artificially replaced what his kidneys could no longer accomplish. He was experiencing renal failure.
“My doctor told me I should get on the Barnes Transplant system,” said Wright. “I did, and that began a year of testing to see if a kidney transplant was possible.”
The next step was to find a donor.
“I tried,” said wife Karen. “But if you’re taking any medication, you’re out.”
“If you have kidney stones, that rules you out, too,” said Butch. “That counted out my brother.”
Next in line was the possibility of receiving a kidney from one of the Wright’s four daughters.
“I knew I wanted to do it,” said Sheila Wright, the couple’s oldest daughter and a nurse at DePaul Hospital. “I just knew I would match and I have Type O negative blood — a universal donor.”
Wright said continuous high blood pressure and diabetes runs in his family. He had been battling the blood pressure problem for years.
Before more steps were taken, other issues had to be settled. For many years the Wrights lived on rural Smith Creek Road. Their huge barn was filled with antique buggies, farm equipment and tools.
The Wrights decided to sell the property, auction many of their collectables and move. Their house sold in April 2011, a three-day auction was held in May and days later they moved to downtown Wright City.
Not long after moving, Butch experienced a medical emergency, hemorrhaging near his jugular vein.
“I might not have made it if we had still been in the country,” he said.
As the scheduled March 2012 surgery date came closer, testing continued to ensure the transplant was a go. Sheila remained steadfast in her plan to donate a kidney to her dad. She had no second thoughts.
“I hated to see both of them go through it,” said Karen.
Butch said he didn’t want to ask someone donate for him. He was afraid they would become sick later and need that kidney.
Wright said that Barnes-Jewish Hospital knows what they are doing when it comes to kidney transplants.
“They are very particular about their testing,” he said. “The amazing thing was, when they finished sewing it in, it started working!”
The kidney transplant program at Barnes-Jewish began nearly 50 years ago. They now perform more than 200 kidney transplants per year. The hospital reports a success rate of around 95 percent.
“We had the surgery on the eighth (of March),” said Sheila. “I could have left the hospital on the 10th, but stayed until Sunday. I probably had a week of pain.”
Sheila said the surgery is much easier on the donor than in the past. Her surgeons used the laparoscopic method, cutting only three small incisions when they removed her right kidney.
Butch celebrated his 62nd birthday April 12. While he is getting used to his new routine, including taking a regular smorgasbord of antirejection pills, he is thrilled he could experience the life-saving surgery.
“I think things will stabilize by July when he completes a lot of the blood testing,” said Karen. “I’m just glad I’m available to be here with him.”
Sheila said she “can’t stress enough” the importance of organ donation. She encourages people who are renewing their driver’s license to agree to become an organ donor.
Because of her gift to her dad, Sheila can see the results of her donation.
“Kidney transplant is the only type of donation where you are alive to see it work,” she said.
As Karen Wright reflects on the family’s experience and the selflessness of her daughter, she looks at the kidney transplant as a unique gift.
“She was in me for nine months and now part of her is going to be with her dad forever.”