Butler’s mascot handler receives surprise hospital visit after kidney transplant

Michael Kaltenmark, Butler’s mascot handler, received a surprise visit from their bulldog in the hospital on Friday after undergoing a kidney transplant. (Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)

Michael Kaltenmark made sure to watch No. 6 Butler’s 70-58 win at Providence on Friday night, though he didn’t do so from his usual spot.

Kaltenmark, Butler’s live mascot handler, was stuck in a hospital bed. Just one day before, he had received a kidney transplant from his brother. 

Friday was his 40th birthday, too.

“I don’t want to be in a hospital for my 40th birthday, but I cannot think of a better gift to receive, right?” Kaltenmark said, via ESPN. “There’s no way I can every repay him. I would jump at the chance to do the same thing for him. 

“My brother didn’t even question it. Once he found out he was a match, that was it. He was doing it. That’s just brotherly love.”

Kaltenmark is Butler’s director of community and government directions, and has been their mascot handler for the past two Bulldogs. 

He first worked with Blue II, their mascot during the school’s Final Four runs in 2010 and 2011. Blue II, however, died due to congestive heart failure in 2013. So Kaltenmark started working with Blue III, or Trip. Trip is now 8 years old, and set to retire from his duties at the end of the year. Kaltenmark is going to retire from his job as the mascot handler, too.  

Kaltenmark was diagnosed with kidney failure last year after doctors discovered that the medicine he was taking for Chrohn’s disease damaged his kidneys, according to the Indianapolis Star. By Friday morning, though, Kaltenmark said he was feeling much better and that his kidney function was dramatically improved, per ESPN. 

Though the last year has been rough, the Bulldogs’ 15-1 start and historic rise in the national polls have certainly helped Kaltenmark.

“It’s a great distraction,” Kaltenmark said, via ESPN. “Personally, it’s helped me not be as consumed with my own health issues, put my focus on basketball. I always say, winning solves everything. It seems to be helping with my kidneys. It’s a lot of fun to watch these guys.”

While Butler’s 12-point win provided a good distraction, it was Trip that really made the biggest difference on Friday.

“He came today. He wanted to perform,” Kaltenmark said, via ESPN. “He saw all the cameras and the people, and he knew that I was OK. He wasn’t as concerned about me as [he was] working the room.

“It did me a world of good. It felt so good. It’s the best therapy.”

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