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Transplant Doesn't Stop Butler

KEENE, N.H., 8/12/10 - Back in the late 60s, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In was must-see TV. One of the many popular skits on the show featured Sammy Davis Jr., in full regalia, including a white-powdered wig, high-stepping across the stage exclaiming “Here comes da judge! Here comes da judge!”

A judicial district court magistrate in Colorado, Pat Butler might hear the same refrain around his hometown of Superior. When he’s not on the bench working on a demanding docket of cases, Butler, a 1981 Keene State grad, can be found competing in an equally arduous array of athletic pursuits. “I’m a goal setter,” said Butler. “I’m always looking for that next challenge or the next sport to try.”

Even a kidney transplant seven years ago couldn’t push Butler to the sidelines.

Originally from New London, Conn., Butler began running cross country at St. Bernard (Conn.) High School and joined the KSC track and cross country teams as a freshman. “I was a middle-of-the-pack type of guy,” said Butler, who also ran in a couple of marathons, including Boston as a senior. “Not real fast, but not real slow.”

Although Pat had an uncle who was a prosecuting attorney, he didn’t have any particular interest in law until his junior year at KSC. “I didn’t see many shoeless lawyers,” he said. “It seemed like a pretty good way to make a living.”

After receiving his degree in business, Pat traveled around the country before enrolling in law school at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., in 1983.

Butler ramped up his athletic endeavors after college, taking up triathlons and later ultra-marathons. “I didn’t know how to swim, but I sure learned,” he said.

After passing the bar and briefly practicing law in Manchester, Butler moved to Colorado. Not one to stand still, Butler remained active on all fronts. He joined a law firm, where he practiced for 22 years and started a family with his wife Tricia. In the small-world department: the two were First Communion partners as second graders and re-connected years later at a deposition.

As a lawyer, Butler tried over 150 cases from civil to criminal to domestic and probate. Pat’s diverse case load corresponded to the growing list of sports he pursued in his spare time. In addition to running, biking, and swimming, Butler’s recreational regimen also included weightlifting, boxing, and an occasional game of tennis.

Pat even found time to run a lawn-mowing business with sons Sean (18) and Justin (16). He also has an older son, Ryan, who is 24.

You would never know by his high degree of activity that Butler had been experiencing kidney failure for quite some time. Despite the escalating problem and at 20 percent kidney function, Butler still managed to trek solo on his bike from Colorado to Maryland in 12 days, averaging 138 miles per day. Six weeks later he completed an Ironman distance triathlon (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run) and boxed 11 rounds two days before his transplant. Although the kidney transplant in July 2003 temporarily put the brakes on his numerous sports activities, Butler, who was named a magistrate judge in 2009, found a different venue to quench his unyielding desire to compete: the National Kidney Foundation’s U.S. Transplant Games.

Held every two years since 1990, the Games celebrate the achievements of transplant patients and makes people more aware of the need for organ donations. According to NKF, more than 100,000 people are waiting for an organ to be donated. Butler was lucky. When family members didn’t match, he found a donor in Miguel Buch, a friend and Spanish interpreter he met in court.

Like the many medals he has won, Butler has shined at the Transplant Games. Competing in his first games in 2006, Butler earned two silver and two bronze medals. Two years later in Pittsburgh, he added to his stash with three gold and two silver. At the recent games held late last month in Madison, Wis., Butler exceeded his high expectations, winning seven medals and setting two American records. He took home gold in the 800, 1,500-meter, and 5K individual and team runs. Butler’s Team Rocky Mountain captured the overall championship.

“I feel very fortunate when I go to these games, because I’m pretty healthy,” said Butler, who also holds two state power-lifting records for his age and weight group.

Butler points out that organ donor recipients are more susceptible to illness because their immune systems are suppressed from medications taken so their bodies won’t reject organs.

“It doesn’t surprise me what he does or what he’s accomplished,” said Pat’s brother Jim, the men’s cross country coach at Conn. College. “He was a very motivated and accomplished athlete. Everyone in the family is very proud of him.”

Motivated by the desire to show that people with organ transplants can still be very active, Butler is up at the crack of dawn to begin his workout schedule. Seeing him come around the corner during his daily run, people can say, “Here comes da judge!”

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