Quad-City native Stanley Thomas is reaching out to the Quad Cities community: He needs a kidney to save his life.

Stanley Thomas, 56, of Blue Grass, has helped the community, and now he asks for help. He has written a letter about the health crisis he faces and the need for a kidney. Thomas has lived in the Quad-Cities all his life except for five years when he attended Iowa State University.

Currently, he is the board chair of the Family Enrichment Center, in north Davenport, which provides assistance to under-served children and families in a Quad City neighborhood. “In addition, I am co-owner of a small business (Wellington Toffee.) The profits from the business are delegated to orphanages in the Dominican Republic, Uganda as well as to a reservation in South Dakota. Being engaged with groups that provide support to the under-served has been a privilege and an eye opening experience. I see how blessed many of us are in this country. Though I find it rewarding assisting people, I now find myself in need of life-saving assistance,” he writes.

Stanley Thomas (contributed photo)

“As an adolescent, I was active in playing football, wrestling and track. It was a devastating blow when I was diagnosed with type I diabetes at the age of 15. I went from a carefree, highly active teenager, to a depressed, inert individual. Five insulin shots daily, no carbohydrates and sweets, testing my blood glucose five times a day by poking my fingers, testing my urine for ketones, the juggling act between getting hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar,)” he writes.

“I understand that the biggest hit of the ’80s Billboard charts was Blondie’s “Call Me.” The biggest hit of the ’80s for me was “You can’t eat that!” It was a concerted effort by grandmother, aunts, dietitian and doctors.” He found the restrictions challenging, he says in his letter.

“I was scared, frustrated, depressed and angry. It took my grandfather, who was also my pastor, to talk me out of this self-loathing place. He gave me encouragement that though this life-changing event would change my life, I was still blessed…I knew that if I wanted to live with this change, I would have to make changes, and I did.”

Some 40 years later, however, with conscientious efforts to keep the complications at bay, Thomas now has chronic kidney disease. “My nephrologist (kidney specialist) explained to me that this was a progressive disease that would ultimately result in kidney failure which would require dialysis and ultimately a transplant. The nephrologist instructed me on how I could prolong my kidney function with a kidney friendly diet, avoiding medications that were damaging to the kidneys and exercise, which I did. Signs were looking good toward the end of 2021 as my kidney function went from an all-time low at 13% to 14% then 15% within a few months! I thought if I could keep eating low salt, low carb foods gentle on the kidneys, and walking – I could keep increasing my kidney function.”

The promises of a New Year in 2022 came to an abrupt halt when Thomas ended up in the emergency room for what he thought was COVID-19. That’s when he found out he needed dialysis.

He has been on dialysis for eight months now – he needs peritoneal dialysis (PD) every day for eight to nine hours per day. “It has been an adjustment getting used to the daily routine of connecting multiple bags to a machine that cycles this fluid in and out of my body to clean the toxins out of my body (replacing the function of the kidney).”

This process can help a patient only so long, he writes. “PD only lasts a certain amount of time, generally around five years. That is why I am need of life-saving assistance, a donated kidney. Because I am in end stage renal failure, and I had planned ahead, I am on a waiting list for a kidney donation. The wait list for my blood type is approximately 5 years. My first step was to reach out to my loved ones, but because of existing health conditions or incompatibility of those potential donors, none are a match,” Thomas writes.

“Finding a kidney for a transplant is difficult,” he continues. “There are 100,000 plus people on the waiting list for a deceased-donor kidney. As I said above, time is against me for receiving a deceased donor kidney. However, there is an alternative: receiving a kidney from a living donor. Reaching out to receive assistance is difficult for me. The gravity of the situation has pushed me way out of my comfort zone to ask for assistance.

“The fact is, having a living donor kidney greatly improves the time frame, typically lasts longer and has better function. A kidney transplant would allow me to have a much more ‘normal’ life than dialysis, giving me more flexibility, healthier body function and all in all a better quality of life,” he writes.

Thomas, whose blood type is O positive, says he has learned several things about a living donor over the last several months. Understandably, some people are afraid of the surgery and what donating a kidney will mean for them, he writes. Some basic information about kidney donation are:

  • You only need one kidney to lead a healthy, long life
  • Most donor surgery is done through tiny incisions, called laparoscopy
  • The recovery period is relatively short, generally 2-4 weeks
  • The cost of your evaluation and surgery are covered by my insurance
  • You will have a separate team of healthcare professionals to evaluate you as a living donor. They will review the risks and benefits and are focused on your best interests

A great resource on living kidney donation is the National Kidney Foundation website. You can also contact the foundation by phone at 855-653-2273 or email nkfcares@kidney.org.

Thomas is working with the transplant team at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC). His friends and family began the process of screening by contacting the UIHC transplant center here.

To reach Stanley Thomas, email him at imset4@yahoo.com