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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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  • Candidates disagree with White House’s minimum wage

    Gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, said the state needs to have serious growth in high-paying living wage jobs that will provide for Oklahomans.
    Dorman cautioned that while Oklahoma’s jobless rate improved in June, the state’s rankings for the well-being of children has dropped from 36th to 39th place, for one of the largest declines in the U.S., according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Project.
    The unemployment rate in June dropped to 4.5 percent, down a percentage point from 4.6 percent in May, according to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, Gov. Mary Fallin said this week.
    The state’s unemployment rate was more than 7 percent when Fallin was elected during the brink of the Great Depression. Alex Weintz, communications director for Fallin, pointed out that per capita income in Oklahoma was second in the nation from 2011 to 2013.
    The non partisan Congressional Budget office reported in February that raising the minimum wage could kill a half-million jobs in the United States.
    According to The Washington Times, CBO analysts reported, “Once the other changes in income were taken into account, families whose income would be below six times the poverty threshold under current law would see a small increase in income, on net, and families whose income would be higher under current law would see reductions in income, on net.”
    President Barack Obama in February signed an executive order to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10 an hour.
    Weintz said the governor believes tax cuts have enabled families to keep more of their money.
    No one is talking about the under-employment rate of families working minimum wage jobs, Dorman said.
    “It’s all fine and good when you have fast-food jobs that don’t cover the bills and that counts toward your unemployment rate.”
    Oklahoma’s minimum wage reflects the federal minimum wage set at $7.25 an hour, a standard set in 2009.
    Fallin signed legislation this year to prohibit municipalities from raising their local minimum wage above $7.25 an hour.
    “If the minimum wage goes up to $15 in Oklahoma City, all of the sudden you would drive retail, business, service industry locations outside of the city limits and that would be detrimental to the economy, consumers and to businesses,” Weintz said.
    Fallin has said that she opposes raising the minimum wage in Oklahoma because it would stifle job growth for small business and lay off workers. A lot of people earning the $7.25 minimum wage are part-time workers and many of them are students, Weintz said.
    “We believe raising the minimum wage is not a good way to address poverty,” Weintz said. “A lot of people earning the minimum wage are actually people living with their parents or other people who are employed full time, and in many cases they are middle class families. So it’s not a good tool to reduce poverty.”
    Dorman said he does not necessarily support the proposed $10.10 an hour minimum federal minimum wage that is being discussed by Congress.
    “I think we need to have a living wage in Oklahoma that is reflective of our economy,” Dorman said.
    About 102,300 jobs have been added in Oklahoma since Fallin took office in January 2011, according to her office.
    The cost of living in the national economy tends to be higher in some other states, Dorman said.
    So a minimum wage increase should be tied to economic gains so that families can pay their bills and afford to care for their children, Dorman said.
    Independent candidates for governor include Richard Prawdzienski of Edmond, Joe Sills of Oklahoma City and Kimberly Willis of Oklahoma City.

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