- Associated Press - Saturday, October 31, 2015

LITTLE CANADA, Minn. (AP) - Clyde Thrower had been waiting five years for a kidney.

The 41-year-old Little Canada man was only surviving this wait thanks to dialysis.

The wait never ends for most.

Thrower’s health troubles began more than two decades earlier.

“I was diagnosed with diabetes when I was 21,” said Thrower, who works as the hospitality coordinator at Culver’s in Little Canada. “At that age, you think you know everything. I spent the next 15 years trying to live my life like I didn’t have diabetes.”

He gained weight - a lot of weight.

His blood pressure skyrocketed.

His cholesterol was too high.

So was his blood sugar.

He developed nerve damage.

Because of this nerve damage and a subsequent foot injury that wouldn’t heal, Thrower lost his right leg in 2008; he lost a toe on his left foot; he lost two and a quarter fingers on his right hand.

Thrower’s body had been sounding alarm bells for years; as he literally began to lose himself, Thrower was finally ready to respond.

But first, he needed to grieve.

“I got so depressed,” Thrower told the St. Paul Pioneer Press (https://bit.ly/1NDECZA ).

Eventually, Thrower found a healthy escape for both his mind and body: He and his wife, Kristin, got involved with Rosetown Playhouse Community Theater.

“I had done plays through high school, church plays and that sort of thing,” says Thrower, who is also a licensed minister with his church. “I like to sing, and my wife and I like to do karaoke, and we thought community theater would be sort of a neat thing to do together as husband and wife.”

Through the years, he’s played roles ranging from a pirate to Santa Claus to Mr. Bumble in “Oliver.”

“Even if it’s a background role, it’s fun,” Thrower says. “Because it’s given us new friends; it’s given us a second family.”

Thrower’s new life faltered in 2010.

“My kidneys had started the process of shutting down, but hadn’t yet, when I was prescribed a painkiller by someone who was not my regular doctor,” Thrower says. “I only took it for a week and a half, but I learned later that it contained ibuprofen, which is not something someone in kidney failure should ever take. I got worse real quick; I had to start dialysis.”

This is when Thrower was put on the waiting list for a kidney.

Five years later, his phone rang.

“It was my coordinator from the University of Minnesota transplant program,” Thrower says. “I had only talked to her one time prior, when I got on the list.”

She had good news.

Thrower had used the power of social media to search for a living donor.

An acquaintance from Rosetown saw - and followed - one of his links to the university’s transplant program, which starts with an online history questionnaire.

Turns out, she was a match.

Turns out, the healthy 31-year-old woman - an identical triplet - had decided to donate one of her kidneys to Thrower.

“The coordinator called the donor by the name of ‘Jacqueline,’ which I didn’t recognize,” Thrower says. “I only know her as ‘Jaq’ (pronounced Jack). So when the coordinator said ‘Jacqueline,’ I said, ‘Who?’ The coordinator said, ‘Don’t you know her?’ and I said, ‘No.’ she said, ‘Well, she knows you.’ “

Later, the mystery was solved via Facebook.

“I wrote, ‘Y’all are not going to believe this, but our prayers have been answered. I just got off the phone with my coordinator at the U of M; she just told me that she got me a kidney.’ While I was still on Facebook, Jaq messaged me and said, ‘Hi, Clyde, I just wanted to tell you that I am your donor.’ “

Thrower suddenly made the connection … Jacqueline Enge … Jaq … Rosetown. She was the young lady in the chorus; a fellow pirate; a dancer whose face shown with youth and health.

Thrower called his wife over to the computer.

“We broke down in tears,” he said. “We just couldn’t believe it. It was an unexpected blessing.”

The surgeries took place July 21 at the U’s Medical Center. One team removed Jaqueline Enge’s kidney; another team transplanted it into Thrower.

It was a success.

“Jaq’s kidney started working right away,” Thrower says. “I peed on the surgeon.”

It was a good sign.

Another good sign took place the next day, when Thrower was able to get out of bed.

“The first place I went, with the help of two attendants, was Jaq’s room,” Thrower says. “I walked to her room because I wanted to go and check on her, to see for myself that she was OK.”

Enge is OK; so is Thrower.

But how do you thank someone for the gift of life?

“I still don’t have the right words,” says Thrower, his voice full of emotion. “I’ve decided the best way for me to thank her is to make this gift last as long as possible. And I’ve been doing that. I’ve been taking care of myself - and her kidney.”

___

Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, https://www.twincities.com

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