Thomas Thompson - 34

Thomas Thompson-familyThomas Thompson (center) and family “I had kidney trouble when I was born, something very similar to polycystic kidney disease. I had a horseshoed kidney, and I had numerous surgeries, but it worked well overall until I was about 22.

“My wife and I were working at Florida Baptist Children’s Home as house parents back in the late 1990s. I came to my wife one day with a washcloth and it had blood clots in it; they were coming out of my nose. My wife rushed me to the ER and my blood pressure was 210/190. The nurse asked if I had ever had kidney problems. It was then that my wife and I both realized that the kidney reconstruction I had as a child wasn’t working any longer.

“I actually had 40-50 surgeries from the time I was an infant until I got married. I did peritoneal dialysis as an infant. I had a bilateral ureterostomy as a baby.  

“There are multiple procedures and surgeries I had that were all kidney-related. I ultimately became a ward of the state because of the poor health care my mom had given me. I was then adopted by my aunt and uncle and raised by them. They walked me through all those years of surgeries and were always there for me.

“My adopted father is a pastor, and my wife and I have been raised in the church.

“In 1999, I went on dialysis for the first time. Doctors tried another reconstructive surgery around that time, and it failed.

“At that point I went on hemodialysis. I’ve had 20 different access surgeries to try and dialyze in different places. Every one of them kept on shutting down or shutting off. I ultimately had to go on a hero graft. It’s an artificial graft that uses the natural vein in the artery. It’s a better, larger graft. I’ve also done peritoneal dialysis as an adult.

Thomas Thompson, and a member of a local church who helped him, share their stories in this video.“My condition isn’t PKD, it’s something known as an adhesion. It’s scar tissue. Anytime you go into the body and have surgery, when it heals, it starts to grow adhesions or webbing. That’s what shut off my peritoneal dialysis, and I wasn’t able to do it.

“Prior to now, I’ve never had a transplant. We’ve come close one other time. We were within 24 hours of having a live-donor transplant and it fell through. I had a blood transfusion prior to the transplant before a dialysis treatment, and it changed all of my numbers, and the transplant wasn’t able to happen. I made it all the way to the admitting room, but that was as close as I got.

“Two years ago we came to Birmingham for the initial screening, and we’ve been listed here at UAB since. I actually thought I was being lied to when I first got the call saying doctors here had found a kidney for me. Less than two months ago, they called me when I was on the dialysis machine. They said, ‘We think we have something for you here.’ I thought it was a mistake. I called back twice and they finally said, ‘No, Mr. Thompson. You can quit calling. Everything is OK. We are sure this is for you.’

“My wife and I were told we would never have children because I was on dialysis. We had to wait 12-and-a-half years, but our daughter was born. Twelve months later, we found out we were pregnant again, this time with a boy.

“That’s one of the reasons why this opportunity to have a transplant is so special. I’ve never been a healthy dad. I’ve never been a healthy husband. This will be my first time to be a healthy dad and a healthy husband. You don’t know what that means. It’s hard to describe what that means. I just know I’m looking forward to it, and I can’t wait.

“It’s amazing the little things you think of that will be different now. We’ve been married 21 years in May. We were married for just five years when my kidneys failed.

“I went in ministry full time in 1999, so this will also be the first time I’ve been a fulltime preacher while healthy. I’ve always had to do it by going to the clinic three times a week for 12 hours a week, or dialyzing at night. I’ve never been healthy while serving.

“We’re thankful for dialysis and the opportunity it has given me, but dialysis is a treatment. It’s no way of life. We praise God that we’ve had that avenue that’s enabled me to sustain this long. But I’m excited that this has happened. I’m excited it’s going to be different. It’s answered prayers.

“We’ve dreamed a great deal about what kind of person this is who is donating, who is helping me and giving me a chance. You can’t fathom someone wanting to give a piece of himself or herself away to another person. But it is a beautiful, beautiful gift.

“We were getting ready to go to the clinic two years ago and eating at Waffle House. Sitting at the table in front of me was Loucheiz Purifoy’s mother. She went to the same dialysis clinic I do. I was wearing Florida Gators gear head to toe, and she came up to me and said, ‘I’m glad to see a true, genuine Florida Gators fan.’ She said, ‘I want you to know my boy plays hard for the Gators.’ We started talking, and that’s when I found out she went to the same dialysis clinic that I did. It’s amazing that she is part of this chain, too.

“I have messages from my church back home, and they have been praying for a spirit-filled kidney for a spirit-filled person. That’s what they’ve been praying for, and they know how to get through.

“I think this chain goes to show that we never know the power of the one life we have, how many people you can touch. It’s amazing to know that all of these transplants come from one person who was willing to give of herself. That’s just a powerful thought. To know that in your one life, you can touch so many.”

Celebrating the nation's longest kidney chain

High-tech medicine and human kindness combine in UAB's ongoing kidney chain, a series of transplant surgeries that have given 101 people so far a new lease on life. The chain is the nation's longest ever.

The kidney chain has been kept going by many remarkable acts of sacrifice, and has revealed many moving stories of determination. Tyler Williamson went to TEDx Birmingham’s 2017 event in March expecting to be inspired and to network and make new connections with fellow attendees. What the 27-year-old did not anticipate was that inspiration would lead him to volunteer to become a living kidney donor just seven months later. See his story in this video:

In their words, stories from our transplant donors and recipients.

Kendra BrooksKendra Brooks. After more than four years of dialysis treatments, Kendra Brooks received her transplant in April 2016. Kendra’s mom donated a kidney so her daughter could receive one and wrote a letter to share the news. “It said, ‘God has answered our prayers. We have a match.’ I cried puddles of tears of joy,” Kendra says. Learn more about Kendra.

sheldon vaughn webSheldon Vaughn. High blood pressure and diabetes ravaged Sheldon Vaughn’s kidneys, and it was the kindness of two donors who helped him achieve a transplant. “A dialysis nurse my wife and I came to know wanted to donate to me, but wasn’t a match for me, and her kidney went to a woman in Florida. But because of her donation, I was able go on the UAB list and received my kidney from a young woman named Nicole who had contacted UAB and wanted to donate her kidney to anybody. So in a sense, I feel like I have two donors.” Learn more about Sheldon.

laura burks w Laura Burks. With a desire to help others, Laura Burks was looking for her next opportunity when a friend posted on her blog about how she was going to donate a kidney. “I thought, ‘That is what I need to do,’ Laura says. “Before that, I didn’t know you could be a loving donor. I thought it was something that happens after you pass away. After realizing that I could give away an organ that I don’t have to have to live with, I thought, ‘If I don’t do this, my life’s not complete.’ I just knew somebody needed a kidney and they’re depending on some stranger to give up theirs, and I was that stranger. Learn more about Laura.

William Harris w William Harris. High blood pressure caused William Harris’ kidneys to fail, and he was told he would eventually need a kidney transplant to live. After nine years of dialysis treatments, his wish came true. “When I was told I was a candidate to get a transplant, and that there was a match for me, I didn’t have any fears,” William says. “I was humbled to know that someone wanted to give me a kidney.” Learn more about William.

Become a part of the chain

Donate a kidney 
If you would like to donate to someone in need of a transplant, begin by filling out this form. You can learn more about kidney transplantation at UAB here.  

Get on the list
If you are in need of a kidney transplant, you will need a referral from your nephrologist. Your doctor can get all the details here.

Give a gift
Support the UAB Comprehensive Transplant Institute with a donation online .


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UAB Kidney Chain news

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Divyank Saini is a UAB lab technologist and one of 17 employees who work behind the scenes at UAB Hospital to bring hope to those waiting on heart, lung, kidney, liver and other transplants. Saini made a decision that he wanted to do more than just his important work of interpreting lab samples to find the right matches. He decided to become a living donor and is UAB Kidney Chain donor No. 57. 


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The human body is primed to identify and destroy invaders like viruses, bacteria and other pathogens that can bring illness or death. Cells of the immune system and the antibodies they make recognize such foreign bodies and act to remove and destroy them. This defense system is a potential problem for kidney transplants. People have different blood groups and different human leukocyte antigens that can provoke an attack if a tissue, such as a kidney, or blood is transferred from one person to another. These two barriers are called blood group incompatibility and tissue (or histo-) incompatibility. A kidney transplant team uses the histocompatibility and blood bank testing laboratories to determine whether the tissues and blood group of a volunteer living kidney donor and the intended recipient match. A match is good, but matches are not always possible.


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Fifty-first transplant means 102 total surgeries have been performed since December 2013 as the nation’s longest-ever chain continues to grow.


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The UAB kidney chain, which began December 2013 and expects more transplants in January 2015, ‘showcases the power of the human spirit in every aspect.’


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Since December, 21 living donor kidney transplants that have taken place at UAB are connected as donors “pay it forward” for a recipient to keep the chain going, and more transplants are scheduled for July.


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The unexpected 2014 snowstorm that crippled the Southeast did not deter the transplant team at UAB from continuing the largest nondirected donor chain ever performed at a single center in the Southeast. 


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The kidney chain has brought donors and recipients to UAB from across the eastern United States and as far away as Oregon.

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Learn more

dr locke video

UAB transplant surgeon Jayme Locke, M.D., and transplant nephrologist Vineeta Kumar, M.D., discuss living kidney donation and paired-kidney exchange in a series of videos on UAB's MD Learning Channel.