Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the past two and a half decades, Thomas Sherwood has put a needle in his upper right arm and slept for four hours while a kidney dialysis machine pumps clean blood into his veins. This Friday, he woke up from his session to a party being thrown in his honor.
The Southeastern New Mexico Kidney Center celebrated Sherwoodâ€™s 27th year of receiving dialysis at the Roswell station operated by Fresenius Medical Care. The 55-year -old was feted with chocolate cake and non-alcoholic drinks, plus a plaque and a gold medal, in the office lobby.
â€œI was totally shocked,â€ Sherwood said, who was all smiles.
The manager of the care center, Fidelia Montanez, said that each day is a cause for celebration for people whose kidneys have failed, and that the center tries to celebrate each patient who has had more than 25 years of dialysis.
Sherwoodâ€™s anniversary is extraordinary, she said, given the longevity of his treatment for his end-stage renal disease.
â€œIt proves that patients can live a long life,â€ Montanez said. â€œWeâ€™re very proud to have him because heâ€™s been an excellent patient.â€
Sherwood, who was born and raised in Dexter, first became sick in 1977. The doctors in Dexter initially misdiagnosed him as a diabetic. It was only until he sought out a specialist in Roswell that he discovered he had rheumatic fever, which eventually affected his kidneys.
The former farmer has had two kidney transplants since then. He currently has four kidneys in his body: two of his own, one from his older brother and the other from a deceased organ donor. The two donor kidneys are located on the front side of his body, just above the hip bone and below his appendix. None of the kidneys are fully functioning.
He was on a transplant list for a hospital in Albuquerque, and recently received two phone calls telling him there was a kidney there waiting for him for renal transplantation. But since the city is about three hours away from Roswell, he couldnâ€™t make it in time. A donated kidney is only good, or â€œlive,â€ for four hours after it has been removed from the donor.
â€œIt makes it kind of hard when we live here and itâ€™s 200 miles away,â€ Sherwood said, â€œSo I went ahead and took myself off the list.â€
Sherwood manages his health condition by adhering to the dialysis treatment and a strict diet, according to the doctors at the kidney center. Dialysis, which is performed through an artificial kidney machine which is a plastic cylindrical container a foot long, removes toxins from the blood that a functioning kidney would filter out naturally.
â€œI hope we get to celebrate 30,â€ Sherwood said.