If you listened to Sam Malone on 740 KTRH this morning, you no doubt heard about Butch Morgan and his kidney.
Seems that if you drive down I-10 East, right at Yale (between 610 and 45), you'll see Morgan's billboard. It's hard to miss, as it says "Butch needs a kidney." It lists his blood type (which is O+) and a phone number. Morgan's whole story is on his personal site.
We caught up with Morgan today after his quite buzzworthy appearance on Malone's show. (Some callers thought Morgan was crazy, while others praised him for his ingenuity.) The 45-year-old Conroe man tell us that he's currently undergoing dialysis treatments four times a day, and he's hoping that a billboard will speed up his search for a new kidney, given that he's a "45-year-old that has the two heart attacks." So is his phone ringing off the hook?
"Not really," he says. "I put the sign up last Tuesday, and since then, I've had two calls about the kidney. All the other calls have been from the press." (Sorry, Butch.) But Morgan also has magnetic signs on the back of his truck, and that marketing tactic has netted him six calls and dozens of e-mails. "People say, 'I was walking through the Wal-Mart parking lot and I seen your sign," he says.
Of all the eight calls he's received so far, "three have been from O + people," says Morgan. "And a lot of the calls are people who don't know their blood type, but they want to become a donor. They say, 'If I'm your type, I want to help you.'"
Morgan's not surprised that complete strangers are offering up body parts to him. "That's the whole reason I did this," he says. Morgan first searched for a kidney through his family. His wife and son are A +, and while his brother-in-law turned out to be an O +, he wasn't compatible. "That was the last person in my family that I tried," says Morgan. A friend suggested trying a billboard. "So I started calling all the sign companies in Houston," he says. "Sign Ads stepped up to the plate and gave me a great deal. I owe them people everything."
That "great deal" is $2,000 for four weeks. Morgan figures his billboard will be up until Christmas. "It rents for a lot more than what I'm paying, so if someone else wants it, that's only fair," he says. "If it's up for one day and I get a kidney out of it, it's worth it." So far, Morgan has spent $3,000 for the billboard, magnetic signs and fliers that he distributes near his home in The Woodlands.
And if Morgan can't net a kidney from his efforts, he'll "just have to stay on the path that everyone else is on," he says. But he's not too confident in that path. "When I read the information on how they select people, the way I understand it, you're in a pool."
There are 1,130 Houstonians awaiting kidney transplants, Katherine Burch-Graham, a spokesperson for Life Gift, told KTRH. Morgan's medical history doesn't exactly put him on top of the emergency donor list.
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"Let's say they have a kidney available, and they match it between me and someone else, well, they'll give it to the person with the better health. It's not like the doctors know me as a person. And what if that other person, God forbid, gets the kidney and then gets in a car wreck? I'm not saying it's a waste, but I'm saying I'm just as worthy."
Morgan says he's been working since he graduated high school, and doesn't plan on stopping soon, kidney be damned. "I work for an oil company that sends me out of the country, and right now I can't travel because of all the solution I have to take. So they make sure I work nearby, and I do. I feel that I'm firing on all cylinders. I'm not handicapped or anything, and I'm not gonna quit."
And so he's got the billboard, which, he says, makes him a master of his own destiny, even if he doesn't get the kidney. "If it doesn't work for me, I guarantee someone will be saved by this. It's making everyone aware that they can be living donor for kidney patient."
And it's making everyone aware that the greatest gift they can give this Christmas could be their kidney. — Steven Devadanam