HUNTINGTON — When the West Virginia legislative session began Wednesday, one face was missing from the sea of local delegates.
Del. Sean Hornbuckle, D-Cabell, was confined to his bed for the week, per doctors’ orders, as he continues to recover from surgery to donate his kidney to his sister Kara Hornbuckle.
The Huntington delegate said he plans to return to Charleston this week to continue work to ensure quality education for all, support small business and to make West Virginia socially progressive.
“My main concern was being able to help her,” Hornbuckle said. “That was the biggest thing. It’s in my nature to help anyway.”
Hornbuckle ran for office because he wants to help people, but as a friend pointed out to him recently, saving someone’s life is a lot bigger than helping them.
Kara Hornbuckle was diagnosed with diabetes as a preteen, her brother said. At 25, the disease had wreaked enough havoc on her kidneys that she was moving toward kidney failure. For the past 2 1/2 years, she has been on dialysis. At first, she was able to do it at home, but her condition progressed to needing to visit a dialysis center two to three times a week until she was told she needed a transplant.
“Dialysis wears on people,” Sean Hornbuckle said. “You get tired and run down. You’re not able to do the things you are accustomed to. It changes everything up, even from the standpoint of work and being able to work, which messes with you financially. It’s a lot on a person.”
So Sean Hornbuckle started the testing to see if he was a match. Once that was confirmed, he did more testing to ensure he was physically and mentally fit enough to undergo the surgery. Doctors also tested to see if kidney disease was hereditary (the siblings’ mother also is on dialysis), but it was found it was not. That put him at ease, he said.
He also had concerns about his 12-year-old son, his No. 1 priority.
“We had the conversation that if anything were to happen, my son would be taken care of,” he said. “Once I had that, I was ready to do it. In the meantime it had become a more pressing need, and we scheduled it ASAP to ensure she could have quality of life and that she would live.”
The siblings had their surgeries Dec. 19 at the University of Kentucky. It was a success. His sister is now off dialysis and even had a reduction in medications.
Doctors said the surgery is harder on the donor than the recipient. After 12 weeks, Sean Hornbuckle will be able to start physical activity like running again, but it will take a year until he is back to normal — albeit without one kidney.
He will hit the marble floor running when he returns to the Capitol.
He will reintroduce some legislation he believes will promote population growth in the fastest shrinking state in the nation.
“The state is in dire need of population,” Hornbuckle said. “Population would cure a lot of our ills.”
One bill would reduce the state income tax for adults with student loan debt. Another would extend a tax credit to businesses that hire women and people of color to executive positions.
He will also reintroduce a bill to legalize adult recreational cannabis use.
“This time I have bipartisan sponsorship on the bill,” he said. “It aims to use the revenue toward education, different preventative substance abuse measures, infrastructure and back to underserved populations. Lots of good stuff can come out of that legislation. It would help the population and tourism.”
Hornbuckle said he will also continue to focus on education, and ensuring students, teachers and parents are supported, including with mental health services. He also will continue to promote vocational training and other avenues to the workforce, he said.