Retired firefighter faces next fight: kidney disease

Retired firefighter faces next fight: kidney disease

Raymond G. Thibault is a retired Providence firefighter searching for a kidney donor. He is pictured here with his wife, Nancy, and son, Raymond. (Breeze photo by Tom Ward)

SCITUATE – Raymond Thibault was never one to pass up a challenge in his 28 years as a firefighter, but when he found out his kidney was failing in 2015 and he would need a new one to resume a healthy life, he balked.

Thibault has polycystic kidney disease, an inherited disorder in which large cysts develop on the kidney to the point where it can’t filter out toxins in the blood. His mother died in her 50s from the same disease.

The retired firefighter, who lives in Scituate, knew he had to act fast, but a part of him hesitated before beginning treatment.

“Nobody wants to do dialysis,” Thibault said. “When you start dialysis, you can’t stop.”

But with support from his wife, Nancy, and 10-year-old son, Raymond M., he relented and began treatment at Rhode Island Hospital in April of last year.

He and his wife also began to research organ donation. They found out that more than 100,000 men, women, and children are on the national transplant waiting list at any time, according to government statistics.

They learned that the average kidney transplant wait time for patients in Rhode Island is 49.7 months, as cited in the July 2015 Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients.

And they also discovered that since Thibault has Type O positive blood, he can only receive a kidney from O positive or O negative donors.

Those factors have motivated the Thibaults to reach out to the public in search of a living organ donor.

“You have to be your own advocate,” said Nancy.

And so the Thibaults, who describe themselves as relatively private people, have begun to share their most intimate, personal story with the community in hopes of finding a compatible kidney donor.

“I have nothing to lose,” Thibault said.

In fact, he has everything to gain.

Rhode Island organ donor advocate and kidney donor Sheila Drew has assisted the Thibaults in public outreach.

For Drew, dedicating time to raising awareness about living organ donation is just part of being a compassionate and caring citizen.

“You pull out all the stops to help people,” she said.

Drew donated her kidney to a stranger in 2012 and has “been on a mission ever since.”

“I saved a life, “ Drew said. “Every day I think about that.”

Drew spends much of her time easing fears about organ donation. Yes, you can live with only one kidney (you have two). Yes, the donor process is confidential and, if desired, the donor can choose not to meet the recipient. No, there is no cost. All screening tests and medical fees are paid for by the recipient’s insurance.

“Why not help somebody? Honest to God, every day it feels good,” Drew said.

The Thibaults are waiting for their own Sheila Drew. They need a donor with Type O blood, an extra kidney, and a simple desire to help.

Interested donors can contact the Rhode Island Hospital donor coordinator at 401-444-3091.

More information about organ donation can found at