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Ryan Thompson leads ride for Make-A-Wish foundation


"Ryan Thompson shows his surgery scars. "

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Ryan Thompson and family recently celebrated the one year anniversary of his liver transplant. The family has been in close contact with the family of the liver donor over the months since the transplant. The donor family had plans to visit Ryan and see how he is doing with their family member’s donation of the gift of life.
Ryan led the ride for a fund raiser for the Make-A-Wish foundation. This is the 25th year anniversary of the Make-
A-Wish foundation. Make-A-Wish foundation grants the wishes of children with life threatening medical conditions and enriches the human experience with hope, strength and joy.
The ride began at the Desertpeak motorsports park in Tooele and continued on to Wendover where participants spent the night and then continued back on Sunday.
Ryan wanted to give back to the Make-A-Wish foundation by helping with this fund raiser because last year he was a recipient of a wish.
The Make- A-Wish Foundation contacted Ryan and began their journey of helping Ryan to identify his “wish” and started working their magic to make his wish come true. Frank Nilson, Director of Program Services and Mike Lauder, Wish Manager for the foundation began the process by asking Ryan for his personal heartfelt answer to the question: “If you could go anywhere, meet anyone, have or be or experience anything, what would you choose? What would you do?” Ryan’s answer: “I would choose a 4-wheeler, a 2008 Outlander Max 800 Limited XT” to be precise. Why a 4-wheeler they asked?
Well you see Ryan grew up riding 4-wheelers. His family owned three of them and they really enjoyed riding them. However, due to mounting medical costs incurred from Ryan’s four year battle with a chronic form of liver disease that caused him to need the liver transplant along with the dreaded diagnosis of a very aggressive rare form of liver cancer; they were forced to sell them.
On Oct. 2, 2008 just barely over two months after Ryan’s transplant, with his family, his wish team (Frank and Mike), and well wishers all at his side, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, along with Alpine Motorsports of Lindon made Ryan’s wish come true. He received the ATV of choice.
Ryan is only the second person in the nation under the age of 18 that has been diagnosed with cholangliocarcinoma, a bile duct cancer. He was also the first to go through protocol — a two month long set of treatments. These treatments are what ultimately made it possible for Ryan to be able to get a transplant, as they put the cancer in a dormant stage. This dormant stage stopped the aggressive cancer from spreading and gave him the chance he needed to find a donor.
According to what doctors told Ryan’s mother Yolanda Thompson, the donor was found just in the nick of time. They felt that Ryan’s health had deteriorated to a point that he would have not lived for more than two weeks.
Ryan’s mother, Yolanda said as scary as it was to see the way he looked when he came out of the surgery it was amazing to see how quickly he began healing and looking better than he had for a long time. The donor liver he received was a 97 percent match, 70 percent is considered good and you never get a 100 percent match.
Doctors expected him to be in the hospital for two to three weeks after the transplant. He was released after nine days. He weighed only 100 pounds when he went in the hospital.
Ryan and his family could not express enough their gratitude to the donor’s family and everyone that has been involved with his illness. From the doctors and staff at Primary Children’s Hospital, Huntsman Cancer Institute and the University Hospital, to the Make-A-Wish Foundation (especially Frank and Mike), and all who have said prayers or given donations. They are extremely grateful.
Ryan’s story should give us all a little more courage to fight the day to day trials that life brings us. He and his family never gave up and never lost hope. They truly should be an inspiration to all of us. They believed that they would get a miracle and they received one.
The phone call for Ryan’s transplant came one year ago on July 28, 2008. The call was by no means a common one, it was the call of salvation just as hope was growing dim. Within the next 12 hours Ryan was in surgery at the University Hospital receiving a new liver that saved his life. A 46 year old man from New Orleans was on vacation in Jackson Hole when he suffered a fatal stroke. He was transported to the University Hospital in Salt Lake and after attempts to save his life, was pronounced brain dead.
As soon as the hospital staff determined that the man was an organ donor they began making calls. Ryan wasn’t the only life that was saved that day, according to Yolanda. The hospital was also able to use both kidneys, both lungs, both eyes, heart valves and skin graphs to help save several lives.
“It was such a relief when we received the call from the hospital,” said Thompson. “Our lives have been at a complete stand still for four years. When we got to the hospital they began tests on the donor to confirm that the liver would be a good match and then immediately started the transplant process.”
According to Yolanda, they received excellent treatment by the experienced hospital staff.
“We were able to meet the family of the hero donor,” stated Yolanda. “It was a wonderful experience. Although the family was grieving their loved one’s death they were also very proud of the fact that his passing made it possible to save so many lives. It was sad but at the same time a truly beautiful moment that brings truth to the saying, with every death there comes life.”

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