A kidney was the lifesaving gift that never arrived
Wife promotes organ donation even after her loss

The messages Sarah posted on Facebook about her husband Tommy’s need for a kidney transplant and their search for a live donor have had a far-reaching ripple effect. It was these posts that prompted a Minnesota State Trooper to become a living kidney donor. Sarah and her family have come to know the officer, and have supported her through the entire donation process, even attending doctor visits together. Because of Sarah’s outreach, one more kidney was donated to someone in need.

“I always said, if I could just get one person to donate, I would be happy. Well, I’ve gotten that one person to donate. So now, I want a hundred more people to donate. Now, it’s all I get up for in the morning.”

It all began with her husband, Tommy. Macon County Police Officer Tommy Butts retired in 2018 after more than 25 years of service. He was known as a good friend and giving public servant. He collected antiques, played bass guitar and enjoyed his family.

With their three children grown, Tommy and Sarah planned to travel and enjoy the life they had built together.

Life took an unexpected turn when Tommy caught a virus that attacked his kidneys. It was only months before his kidneys failed and he started dialysis treatment. Sarah became his caretaker around the clock.

He needed a kidney transplant, but he passed away before that lifesaving gift could arrive. Nationwide, the wait for a kidney donation can be five years or longer. When Tommy received his diagnosis, Sarah and Tommy were told that their best chance was to find a living donor who was healthy enough to donate and matched Tommy’s blood type. Family and friends were tested but none were able to donate to Tommy.

“We needed to look for a kidney, so it was what I was here to do. I resigned from my job,” Sarah says.

She used every tool she had to find a kidney donor and save her husband. She posted on social media and talked to anyone who would listen about becoming an organ donor. Tommy’s story was shared on local TV and radio shows, and in newspapers. People came to awareness events in their community to support Officer Butts. Potential donors were tested as far away as Texas.

Still, there was no kidney available for Tommy’s lifesaving transplant.

“It was a long year of dialysis at home and it just didn’t happen for us. We didn’t get the kidney.”
When he died, Tommy became an eye, bone and tissue donor. He was able to help others who might have been blind, fighting cancer or healing from severe burns.

“The feeling was amazing. It brought us just a little bit of happiness that we could help somebody else,” Sarah says. “We could prolong someone’s life.”

Sarah has remained committed to promoting donation after Tommy’s death. She doesn’t want another family to go through what hers did, so she talks to people and posts on social media to honor Tommy’s legacy. Sarah still plans events to draw awareness to the need for donation and raise funds for patients with kidney disease, like a live music benefit,  Tommy had envisioned even before his death.

Misconceptions about the donation process and transplant waitlist are common. Correcting them is part of the message Sarah shares, along with the joy she has in knowing her husband was able to help others through donation. Spreading awareness has become her passion.

Listen to Sarah’s story on Let’s Talk Hope at www.letstalkhopepodcast.com, or wherever you find podcasts.

Most important: Register your decision today to become an organ, eye and tissue donor. Share your decision to donate life with your family and friends.