The poker gaming community in Britain has lost Neale “The Wheel” Butler. He died on Jan 8, 2016 after battling with terrible health problems for several years.
When he was only 12 years old, Butler required a surgery, but owing to complications during surgery, he lost his ability to walk and was forced to move around on a wheelchair. He also had to enroll in a special school that would have been shut down if Butler and his friend hadn’t embarked on a courageous fund-raising initiative—a sponsored wheelchair push of 106 miles. These efforts alone saved the school from being shut down.
Butler was determined to live life fully, so he finished school and college and became a graduate in marketing and advertising. He also became an excellent pool and snooker player and won several wheelchair table tennis and basketball events.
But his health continued to decline, forcing him to survive on painkillers. Although doctors warned him of a possible organ failure, he continued to live life as normally as possible.
He began focusing on online poker and played on the iPoker Network under the monikers Sunshineseren and Serenstar28. He wanted to raise $10,000 so that he could buy an electric wheelchair.
In May 2015, he visited a specialist who advised him to undergo a surgery to remove a 10mm growth in his bladder. This growth turned out to be Squamous, a rare form of bladder cancer. He had to undergo more medical tests to find out if the cancer had spread to his chest. Even if it hadn’t spread, he needed another surgical procedure to remove his bladder.
His brother and Seren, his niece, were his greatest sources of strength and inspiration. On September 16, Butler wrote on Facebook that his brother has been a great help to him. About his niece, he said: “She’s my little angel and certainly gives me a huge incentive to fight this, not that I’ve ever not fought my health battles. Many doctors have been proved wrong by me many times and many of them didn’t think I’d reach 40.”
A month later, he had to be hospitalized as multiple blood clots had been found in his lungs. Neale never updated his Facebook status after that, but on Jan 10, his brother posted news of his death.
Over 40 people posted their condolences and many of them referred to him as a brave person and an inspiration.