ST. JOHNS, Mich. — Dale Riggle was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 12 years old. By the time the St. Johns man was 35, he needed a new kidney, so he took to social media to find a match.
"I didn’t have a very good diabetic childhood, as a lot of kids don’t for some reason, and I found out about 10 years ago that my kidneys were starting to decline. And, two years ago, I found out they were really starting to decline," said Riggle, who is now 38.
Riggle’s kidneys deteriorated to the point where he either needed to start dialysis or have a kidney transplant. So he reached out to friends and family on Facebook. Six people responded to his call and offered to get their blood tested. Nothing worked out.
Cue John Thelen.
"I first became aware of his need. I guess it came across my feed. I’m not quite sure how because we weren’t friends at the time," said 56-year-old Thelen, who says he saw the post multiple times. He decided it was a sign.
"Again, I’m not sure how or why, but it was a little more urgent of a need. And the suggestion was if you’re O+ blood and have any interest in being a kidney donor go to this Henry Ford website and complete this 20-minute survey," Thelen said.
Thelen was a match. The surgery took place on February 18, and it was successful.
“He’s just unbelievably a great person. I mean there’s nothing more you can really say about it. To just want to donate something that you could potentially give to your family member down the road…to give me extended time with my friends and family is just more than anybody could expect,” Riggle said.
Thelen said he's not really sure why he felt compelled to help Riggle, "other than maybe the work of the Holy Spirit, because I still don’t really know why his need came across my Facebook because it wasn’t in a group page or a community page. So after the second time I thought maybe I was being sent a message.”
To Thelen’s daughter, Emily, this was no surprise.
“I mean he’s given his whole life to giving… He has an occupation based on that. He and my mom are very involved in the church. They do a lot of volunteering in the community, they do a lot of stuff for our neighbors – they’ll shovel their driveway – just random acts of kindness. That’s just what my parents do,” Emily smiled.
Riggle says that, because his kidney came from a live donor, it should last him about 20 years before he must start the process again. Until then, his plan is to live a healthy life and try to take care of himself and his family as best he can.
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