Spearfish man in need of new kidney

May 1, 2019

SPEARFISH — When Charlie Thomas was 10 years old, his mother , Shirleen Thomas, donated one of her kidneys to him. At the time, both Charlie and his mother knew the odds of him needing another transplant at some point would be high. Now, 13 years later, Thomas is back on the waiting list for another kidney.

Thomas went into renal failure when he was born and was put on peritoneal dialysis. When he was 11 months old, he was diagnosed with Atypical Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome (AHUS). According to the Nation Kidney Foundation, Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome (HUS) is typically treatable with dialysis and blood transfusions, and most patients who need dialysis will recover kidney function and ultimately be able to discontinue dialysis treatment. Unfortunately for Thomas, he was diagnosed with the more severe form of the syndrome, AHUS which has caused his kidneys to fail despite treatments.

“One of his original kidneys got cancer, and they had to remove it,” Thomas’ mom said.

In 2006, Shirleen donated one of her kidneys to her son. As part of the dialysis treatment Thomas was given medication to help boost the antibodies in his blood, which also complicated the transfusion and transplantation process. Partially due to Thomas’ high level of antibodies, four years after the procedure, his immune system rejected it as a “foreign object.” Now Thomas is undergoing hemodialysis treatments and is back on the waiting list for another kidney transplant.

Since the transplant when he was 10, Thomas has adapted to life with AHUS relatively well. Despite all the frequent trips to Denver for treatment Thomas graduated on time in 2015, currently works at Tractor Supply in Spearfish, and enjoys spending time with friends. Shirleen said she hasn’t suffered any ill effects since donating her kidney other than slightly elevated blood pressure and encourages others to consider becoming a donor.

“You just have to follow your heart, and if you feel really compelled to do it, then I would do it,” she said. “The pain is really not that bad, and I haven’t had to change anything in my life except taking the blood pressure pill.”

Thomas said he doesn’t want to come across as a charity case; he just wants to get the word out about the need for people to become donors.

“I don’t want to be like, ‘OK now give me a kidney,’” he said

“My main thing is just the importance of donating. There’s 10,000 people that need kidneys and not enough donors.”

For more information about becoming a donor, Thomas suggested contacting the Avera Transplant Institute in Sioux Falls by calling (605) 322-7350, or by visiting www.avera.org

To read all of today’s stories, Click here or call 642-2761 to subscribe to our e-edition or home delivery.