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A bond between sister and brother

Kerry Robusto and her brother, David Butler
by Larry S. Chowning

David Butler 61, of Forest Hill, Maryland, has been suffering for six years with failing kidneys. He suffered from uncontrolled high blood pressure that caused his kidney failure, heart problems and other medical issues.

In February, his sister, Kerry Robusto of Urbanna, answered her brother’s call for help and donated one of her kidneys to him.

The two operations took place in February at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. David and Kerry are now doing fine.

“My brother had been fighting kidney issues for six years when he began to have other medical issues with his heart and diabetes,” said Kerry. “He was just wearing down.”

David was on a kidney transplant list for some time with no results, so he asked a younger brother about giving him one of his kidneys. The brother agreed. However, David’s heart condition worsened and the transplant was delayed. In the meantime, the brother moved to Florida to start his own business.

“I just didn’t feel like I could ask him to come back from Florida and go through the procedure,” said David, who also noted his brother needed all of his strength to start his new business.

In June of 2008, David asked Kerry if she would consider donating a kidney. “Yes!” she immediately answered. 

“We started the testing in February of 2009 at the University of Maryland Medical Center,” said Kerry. “There are many criteria that need to be met before you are considered a perfect match, and David and I met the criteria for a 100 percent perfect match.”

During testing in 2009, David had a heart attack, which required five stents to be inserted. The doctor told him it would take a year of recovery before he could be considered for the kidney transplant.

“My brother and I really didn’t talk about the transplant much in between,” said Kerry. “So, in the meantime, I went about my life.”

David and Kerry are from a family of seven children with Kerry being the third oldest and David the second oldest. “We were a perfect match medically, but other factors were considered too,” Kerry said. 

David could have asked one of his younger brothers or his other younger sister for a kidney, but some of the factors considered were having children at home, being able to take time off from work, and financial issues.”

Kerry’s husband is Dr. James Robusto, the physician at Urbanna Family Practice, and their daughter Kelsey is a student at the College of William and Mary. Kerry works in the family-owned business and was able to take time off to accommodate the kidney transplant and recovery.

“I felt like I was the best candidate for the transplant but, in the meantime, I had planned to make a mission trip to Haiti,” said Kerry.

However, when the recent earthquake hit Haiti, Kerry’s mission trip was cancelled. “That answered a call because I really thought I was supposed to go to Haiti, and then my brother said he was ready,” she said.

The surgery took place February 24. “He had a surgeon and I had a surgeon. We had two separate teams that worked with us, which included medical workers, social workers and financial planners.”

There was no cost to Kerry because the medical center covers the cost of a kidney donor. “A living donor’s kidney has a much better survival rate to the recipient than one from a cadaver,” she said. 

“The life span of a cadaver kidney is about 10 years, while the life span of a recipient with a kidney from a living donor is 20 years,” she said.

When asked about her own survival while living with only one kidney, she said, “That is the interesting thing. One in 400 people are born with only one kidney and the survival rate is normal.”

Kerry said she agreed to the kidney transplant before telling her husband and daughter. “I did it out of love for David,” she said. “I hope and pray my husband and daughter are all right with it because it was not an option not to do it.

“I wanted my brother to have a good quality of life for the rest of his life,” she said. “He has two children and three grandchildren and he should not have to live like he was living.”
Before the transplant, David was taking dialysis three days a week.

“If God gave me two [kidneys], there is no reason he shouldn’t have one of mine,” said Kerry. “I’ve had no problems other than being sore. They made about a one-inch incision at my belly button and took it right out.

“I went into it hoping for good results, being pain free, and that it would work for him,” she said. “So, my attitude played a big part in it. I wanted to walk out and have it be a good experience so I could share it with someone else. 

“I want others to know that they can do this too. It was not that difficult. I was in the hospital on Wednesday, I was released on Friday, and I took it easy for the first week after the surgery. Now, I’m driving and going right along.”

On March 29, David was on vacation in Ocean City, Md., and doing fine. “About six years ago, I started getting poison in my blood and I didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “They determined both of my kidneys were failing.

“I can’t thank Kerry enough,” he said. “I asked Kerry because I thought she was in a good situation with her husband being a doctor and he would be able to look after her both financially and physically if something happened.

“I wasn’t surprised when she said yes,” he said. “Kerry is a very outgoing and a very giving person. She looks after our mother in Urbanna and she is a very generous person in her community.

“When we were growing up we had the usual brother and sister fights, but when we got older we all got along,” he said.  “Family love is something that never goes away.

“I naturally worried about her health, but I know she is in good hands in Urbanna with the support of her church (Urbanna United Methodist Church), friends and husband.”

David said he has had some minor setbacks with infection, but his last checkup showed he was doing well. “The doctors said I had a remarkable recovery from major surgery.
“I’m so thankful for life and all my blessings, and that includes my sister!”

posted 03.31.2010

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