‘I’m focusing on sunshine': Community supports teacher battling liver disease

‘I’m focusing on sunshine': Community supports teacher battling liver disease

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Support is pouring in for a Richmond teacher who is in need of a new liver.

Kendra Butler, 34, suffers from, Primary Biliary Cholangitis (PBC) a rare autoimmune disorder and her health is quickly declining.

“I am trying to focus on the sunshine, and it’s a very hard time for me, of course, I have my moments," said Butler.

Butler has been a teacher with Richmond Public Schools for 13 years and teaches 3rd grade at Elizabeth Redd Elementary School.

Three years ago, she was diagnosed with PBC, and while Butler says doctors have told her the disease is usually slow in its progression, her experience has been much different. Over the last few years, she says students have noticed when she was not feeling well, even taking the time to remind her to take her medicine.

Kendra Butler has been teaching students within RPS for 13 years.
Kendra Butler has been teaching students within RPS for 13 years. (Source: Kendra Butler)

“Doctors don’t know a lot about it, there’s not a lot of women of color who have it or young people,” she said.

In a video from 2018, Butler described what it is like to live with PBC:

She has quickly progressed from Stage 2 to Stage 4 Cirrhosis of the liver and will need a transplant.

“I was teaching virtually, and I got a call from my doctor, I had to let my co-teacher know I had to step away for a minute and talk to my doctor - I was devastated. I was looking to hear something different,” she said.

Her next steps will involve getting on a transplant list.

“I am trying to focus on the positives, and the thing about a liver, is you can get a live donor," Butler said. “The liver is huge. The cool thing about it, you can take just a piece of the liver and the piece you take will grow back.”

Butler says her blood type is O Positive, and she is hopeful she will find a match.

“She has touched lives for so many years and I think it’s good for the Richmond community to know what she is going through and be able to support her in this journey," explained Butler’s friend Bethany Bushey.

Bushey started a GoFundMe, to help raise money for Butler’s medical expenses.

In about a week, almost $10,000 was raised to help Kendra. The GoFundMe page has also been used as a place to leave notes of encouragement for Butler. She says her students recently left her video messages of love and support, gestures, that help her through the hardest days of her disease.

“I cannot express enough the appreciation and how grateful I am,” she said. “As teachers, we give so much of ourselves--for me to receive this type of love and support for something that is incurable, it has made feel so loved, and honestly it’s really what’s getting me through all of this.”

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