As an avid cross country biker, Tom Armstrong was well aware of the many twists and turns that a road can take. However, in 1994 his life’s road took a couple of very unexpected and wild turns that could have been disastrous.
Tom’s life passion and business is organizing cross country bike tours on some of the most famous historical trails across the U.S. Seven days into the Oregon Trail bike tour in 1994, Tom and his bike mechanic, James, were struck from behind by a drunk driver. The last thing Tom remembers about that day is being at the Chief Turkey Leg concrete marker on Highway 30. James told him later that before the accident, Tom called out, “Car coming up from behind.” Then a few seconds later, he yelled, “They’re not moving over, hit the ditch!”
Both men had serious injuries, but James remained conscious the whole time. Tom woke up the next day in the Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney with his back broke in two places, a skull fracture, multiple lacerations and a shredded shoulder from going through the car’s windshield. Besides learning of all his injuries, Tom woke up to a strange and shocking question from the doctor. He asked Tom if he had kidney disease. Tom was only in his mid-30’s and was healthy, athletic and in fabulous shape prior to the accident.
They continued to monitor Tom’s blood while he was in the hospital and after his release, but his numbers just got worse and worse. They found that he had IgA nephropathy, a kidney disease that usually has a slow progression to chronic renal failure in 25-30% of cases during a period of 20 years. The doctors feel that the accident may have accelerated the severity in Tom’s case. He was put on dialysis while they began testing his siblings for a donor match. Nearly a year after the accident, Tom would receive a kidney from his older brother.
Tom said it was a rough couple of years recovering from both his bike accident injuries and kidney transplant, but he was able to fully resume his athletic lifestyle and bike tours through his company Historical Trails Cycling. Having had his life saved first by a bike helmet and then by a donated kidney, Tom said, “We are blessed with the medical technology available today to save and enhance people’s lives with transplantation.”
Tom became acquainted with the Nebraska Kidney Association at the time of his transplant and has been an advocate for them ever since. He does a few speaking engagements for them from time to time and has organized a fundraiser bike tour in the past. He also helps to spread their message of the importance of being an organ donor. Tom shared, “It’s important for people to be aware of the possibilities, to sign a donor card and to let their family know of their wishes to be a donor.”
Jeff learned he had polycystic kidneys at age 13. His father had died five years earlier from complications with the same disease. It was not until his early 20’s that he started to see side effects. It was during a normal checkup that he learned his blood pressure was beginning to increase. In the spring of 2002, testing showed that his kidney function had deteriorated to the point that he needed to prepare for dialysis and be placed on the transplant list. “As has been the case at so many times in my life, the people around me showed their support, and I was blessed to learn that several friends offered to selflessly donate a kidney,” Jeff said. “My donor, DeAnn, gave me life. Her generosity and selflessness is unparalleled by most people in the world.”
Today, Jeff has had no negative complications related to his transplant. “I have felt amazing from the moment I woke up from the surgery. I felt 20 years younger. I was filled with energy, and I gained a new appreciation for life and giving to those in need.”
Jeff has served on the board for the Nebraska Kidney Association and said, “From pre-screening to education and assistance, the Nebraska Kidney Association provides an invaluable service to those individuals who would go without.”