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February 13, 2014

Given the gift of life

Heart transplant recipient celebrates renewed lease on life

OKLA. CITY — Not only Valentine’s Day, but every day is a blessing in the life of Brenda Butler, she said. In March she will celebrate 12 months of recovery after her heart transplant at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City.

“It’s definitely a blessing from God,” said Butler, 50. “And it’s unbelievable. I have someone else’s heart inside of me. It hasn’t changed me as a person, but it changed my life.”

Butler said she is happy to say that she is 50 because she almost didn’t make 40.

“Brenda Butler has gotten up every time life has knocked her down. She remains upbeat, enthusiastic and determined,” said Stanley Hupfeld, chairman of INTEGRIS Foundations.

The congestive heart failure she suffered from was related to hormonal breast cancer treatment in 2003. Six treatments of Herceptin put her in heart failure, she said. An assistive device helped her heart to pump for three years before she developed an infection.

The gift of a heart donor gave Butler another chance at life with the help of her surgeon Dr. David Nelson of Edmond and a lot of prayers.

Today, she has the

freedom to move freely without impairment.

Butler is finding more opportunities to share her story in the hope of educating others about how precious the gift of life is. She volunteers for the Women’s Health Forum, her church and other community

activities.

“Not just for hearts but for livers and kidneys, whatever there is a need for,” she said. Butler signed up to be an organ donor before she needed a transplant.

“I thought that was a nice thing to do,” she said. “Looking back, that was one of the most important decisions I’ve made in my life.”

She understands the intense evaluation families go through when their loved one has donated a heart. Someone must pass away.

“Usually it’s an untimely and unexpected death,” Butler said.

The donor procedure is strictly anonymous. The only thing she knows is that her donor was young. However, she said many similar physical characteristics must align between donor and recipient.

“It’s my understanding that after a year you can put in a request to meet your donor family,” she said. “Or the donor family can also put in a request to meet you. So that’s one of the things I want to do; to meet the donor family to say thank you.

“And I pray for them every single day about the loss that they are experiencing, but also the blessing they gave me.”

She has more time to spend with her family. Butler and her husband Norbert own a home health agency in Oklahoma City. They share two children and also raise their three nieces that they think of as their daughters.

“You have no idea how much of a blessing it is to me and my family to be able to get up and do almost normal stuff,” she said.

jcoburn@edmondsun.com | 341-2121

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