Speaker Busch Undergoes Liver Transplant

Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch, one of the state’s most powerful political leaders, underwent a liver transplant Thursday to resolve ongoing health problems he has attributed to skin cancer medication.

In a brief interview with The Capital on Wednesday, the Annapolis Democrat said his health had taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks.

As reported in The Capital Gazette,

Busch’s physicians at the University of Maryland Medical Center diagnosed him with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, a form of liver disease, and determined in May that it was progressing.

At that point, Busch said he and his doctors decided on a liver transplant through the hospital’s living donor program. His sister provided the donation.

The speaker’s chief of staff, Alexandra Hughes, said Thursday evening that Busch was out of surgery and recovering.

Busch, 70, downplayed his health problems earlier this month when he filed to run for re-election as a delegate in District 30A. He said Wednesday his doctors told him he can expect a seven-week recovery period.

The speaker was upbeat about his surgery and the prospects for regaining his health. One of his daughters recently graduated from college and the other has completed her freshman year. Both are planning to spend the next few months at home with Busch and his wife, Cindy, during his recuperation.

“It’s good that they’ll be home this summer,” he said.

As word of the apparently successful surgery spread Thursday night, those who know Busch wished him well. His office sent an email with details to members of the House of Delegates just before 7 p.m.

“Liver surgery is obviously very serious,” Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh said. “My understanding is that it went very, very well, and in fact it could not have gone better.”

Busch’s fellow presiding officer, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George’s, sent him well wishes.

“I wish him the very best and hope for a speedy recovery,” Miller said in a statement.

Busch, who is the longest-serving speaker in Maryland history, had previously brushed aside concerns about his health. He has lost a significant amount of weight in the last year, a complication from what he described as internal bleeding caused by medication prescribed to treat skin cancer on his legs.

When he filed paperwork to seek another term May 19, Busch said he was on the mend and hoped to be back to full strength by the fall.

In a statement released by his office Thursday, Busch acknowledged the situation has changed. He said he remained lethargic after a brief hospitalization last fall. In the final days of the General Assembly session in April, he could be seen taking brief breaks from floor proceedings.

Even in announcing the surgery, Busch made a political point in a veiled reference to ongoing Republican efforts in Washington to roll back the Affordable Care Act.

“Major surgery of this nature is always daunting,” he said in the prepared statement. “Unlike many in our state and our country, I am fortunate to have good health insurance and access to the best medical care in the country. This is the first significant medical issue I have had in my life and it does force you to reflect on those who may not have the same quality of care that many of us are blessed with.”

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