CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Delegate Sean Hornbuckle got a hug. And then another hug. And then another hug.
He also received two standing ovations.
It was the first day back at the Legislature for Hornbuckle, D-Cabell, after donating one of his kidneys to his younger sister. Besides the expressions of admiration from his legislative peers, Hornbuckle was also gifted a can of kidney beans for his desk in the House chamber.
“When you see one of us act so selflessly and make the sacrifices Delegate Hornbuckle has made, it makes me humbled to be around you,” Minority Leader Tim Miley, one of the huggers, said in a floor speech.
“Thank you for being an inspiration to all of us and we’re glad to have you back.”
Hornbuckle, a 34-year-old financial services adviser, rose and gave his own speech, expressing appreciation for all those who wished him well as he prepared for surgery right before Christmas, went through it and then started his recovery.
“I just want to say to everyone in here, I appreciate the love, the support,” Hornbuckle said, adding that the kindness he experienced was bipartisan.
“I had a lot of buddies across the aisle text to make sure I was OK. Because these things are not about politics. It’s about life.”
After Tuesday’s floor session, reporters gathered around Hornbuckle to ask questions.
He explained that his little sister, Kara Hornbuckle, was diagnosed with diabetes as a preteen. Over time, the diabetes and medication started to compromise her system. About three years ago, the complications progressed to the point that she had to go to a dialysis center daily.
“It was the only thing to do. She’s my baby sister. I’m naturally a person who likes to help folks, but it was even more important to make sure I could save my sister’s life,” Hornbuckle said.
Hornbuckle was checked to be sure he was a compatible donor. But he also wanted to be assured that his own 12-year-old son would have nothing to worry about as Hornbuckle went through the procedure.
Once Hornbuckle had talked over the situation with family, “I said ‘Hey, let’s get on this operating table.'”
The federal Health Resources and Services Administration says 113,000 people are on the national transplant waiting list.
Of these, 100,791 await kidney transplants, according to the National Kidney Foundation. The average wait is three and a half years. n
And 13 people die each day while waiting for a life-saving kidney transplant.
“When we talk about organ donors, so many people in our country — in our state for that matter — need another organ to be able to live,” Hornbuckle said.
“So I do hope that I inspired some folks even if they’re not going to be a living donor, which is sort of hard to do, but to make sure that when they sign up for their driver’s license that they want to donate some organs when they pass.”
Hornbuckle said he’s on the mend, even without one of his kidneys.
“Not 100 percent,” he said. “But I’m good enough to be in this chamber and help out other folks in West Virginia who need it.
“They say the timeline’s about four to six weeks for recovery. It’ll actually be four weeks on Friday so I like to be an overachiever, a little bit. And then at 12 weeks I’ll be able to start running, lifting light weights. Then I won’t be back to 100 percent normal, albeit minus my kidney, for about a year.”