Jim and Rosalyn Butterfield are continuing their quest to find a kidney for their son and still working to raise awareness of the disease that affects him.
The Kamloops couple’s son, Mike Butterfield, 45, lives in Vancouver and has polycystic kidney disease, known as PKD. He is otherwise healthy, but is threatened by kidney failure due to his condition.
The two have been doing whatever they can to help find him a donor, including asking media for help.
Since KTW published a story about Mike in June, three people have come forward as potential donors, but none have been medically eligible.
Another person who reached out to the Butterfields is Sharon Jones, a living donor who wanted to share her experience and help advocate on Mike’s behalf. Jones, 66, shared her story with KTW, with the hope her story will inspire others to also become living donors. She began the process of donating a kidney in 2019 after reading news stories for years about those in need.
“I think in the past, I probably just read about it and certainly had some emotional feelings about the individual and the family, but I thought, ‘I don’t know if I could help,’” she recalled.
Jones said the experience has been very positive, even though she made the donation anonymously and has never met the person who now uses one of her kidneys.
“For me, I was just very passionate about it. I knew I wanted to do it. So it was all just a very positive experience and a very good outcome,” she said.
The process began when Jones called the Living Kidney Donor Program at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver. After a conversation on the phone, she was sent more information by email. After a series of tests over the course of a year, she finally made her donation in the spring of 2020.
“The whole team at St. Paul’s was just amazing. As I was going through all the different testing, they were just so supportive and made me feel this was all about me,” she said.
Jones said she recalls feeling nervous, awaiting the final phone call that would give her the go-ahead. She said she would have been “very disappointed” if it turned out she couldn’t donate.
The true consequences of the donation didn’t hit her until after the fact.
She said she was always aware her donation could save a life, but that didn’t sink in until she was recovering.
“One of the nurses from the kidney team came in to check on me and say thank you — and she presented me with a blanket,” Jones said.
On that blanket is a patch that still conjures up strong emotions today. It reads “B.C. Transplant. I gave the gift of life.”
“Just reading that made me realize, wow. I just saved somebody’s life,” she said.
As for meeting the person who received her organ, Jones said it won’t be up to her.
“I’ve decided not to get in touch with them. I’m comfortable with what I’ve been able to do. If they decide they would like to contact me, I’d be more than happy to do that,” she said. “But I don’t feel like I need to intrude in their life. I don’t want to complicate things for them.”
When asked what she would say to those who are considering becoming live donors, she said, “just check it out.
“There is absolutely no harm at all in going through the process. There’s no commitment,” she said, recalling she was often asked — even right up until the surgery — if she wanted to go through with her donation.
“And the benefit to you is that you get to find out if you’re healthy or not,” she added, referring to the tests necessary to determine whether a person is eligible to donate a kidney.
Those interested in learning more about how to become a living kidney donor can contact the St. Paul’s Hospital Living Donor Program by phone at 1-877-922-9822 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To help Mike Butterfield, reference Michael Ross Butterfield, birthdate June 30, 1975, when calling in.
More information can also be found online at renal.providencehealthcare.org/services/living-kidney-donor-program.