One Sunday in March 2017, while he was living in New Orleans, Calvin Thompson felt so sick that he asked his roommate to drive him to a hospital emergency room. On Monday morning, he woke to find that he was fresh out of surgery, with tubes everywhere and feeling like Frankenstein. He was told that he had Stage 4 kidney disease, was in kidney failure, and needed to start dialysis. Calvin had been built like a football player and weighed 270 lbs. After he got sick, as his weight plummeted to 172, he states that his brain could not keep up with how his body was changing.
Not only does Calvin struggle with kidney disease; he is also gay and has kept this information private for many years. Only recently has he felt comfortable sharing it with others. “I’m living a regular life now,” he states.
In June, Calvin moved back to his home state of Michigan where he has siblings in Redford and Belleville — he is the baby of the family. He states that his family keeps him grounded. “I literally came back to Michigan to plan my funeral,” he said. But he recovered and began preparing to live.
“If you don’t have a positive attitude, you will drive yourself insane,” he states. He tries to be his own best advocate. “Closed mouths don’t get fed,” he jokes. “Fortunately, I still have my sense of humor. We have to become our own best cheerleader.”
Now discharged, Calvin tried home peritoneal dialysis, but it needed to be done every day and did not draw off as much fluid as in-center dialysis. Currently, he goes to dialysis three times a week and tries to help the other people there adjust to the procedures and the waiting. He also belongs to a Facebook group for people on dialysis and loves to help others when he can. In June 2017, he was placed on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.
In April 2018, he had surgery for prostate cancer and was taken off the transplant list. “It’s like being on a roller coaster,” Calvin said.
In 2019, he was an intern at the NKFM for four months, working in patient services. While there, he decided that as long as he was in dialysis, he was going to make it count. Although he is almost 60, he decided to earn a master’s degree in social work. “I have lots of time to study in dialysis,” he explains.
After his health status improved, Calvin was returned to the transplant list. He is still interested in helping others, either through the NKFM or other organizations. His smile is warm when he says, “I’m just in love with being alive right now.”
Calvin is even more in love with life now. On June 20, 2021, he received a kidney transplant and is doing well. Now his goal of helping others can continue for many years to come.
Read Calvin’s April 2021 profile in Between the Lines (Pride Source) magazine.
For more information on NKFM internships, see below or go here.