CCHS graduate Jacob Dawson looks forward to returning to a normal life after his transplant

by: KEVIN SPERL - When Jacob Dawson receives a kidney from his dad, Larry, his mom, Sue, will be his caretaker during his 12-week recovery in Portland.

Jacob Dawson had unknowingly lived with a ticking time bomb for 28 years.

Now 29, Dawson learned last year that he had End Stage Renal Disease related to a birth defect known as horseshoe kidney.

“My whole world changed last year and I no longer have the energy to do anything,” said Dawson. “Last May, I was sent by ambulance to Bend and immediately put on dialysis.”

Dawson, a 2003 graduate of Crook County High School who earned eight varsity letters in track, football and cross country, now finds himself fighting serious infections, a painful experience that belies his competitive school years.

“Jacob told me he was happy that I didn’t know about this disease when he was young,” said his mom, Sue. “If I had, I would have probably kept him from doing a lot of things.”

Seeing Jacob and his mom together, it is difficult to know that anything is wrong.

The pair makes light of almost everything, choosing to remain positive about a situation that is potentially deadly.

“We have decided to deal with this head on and joke about it,” said Jacob.

Sue added that she feels that God had already known and let Jacob know when he needed to, adding, however, that she “would have liked to have known about this ahead of time.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, horseshoe kidney “is a common abnormality of the urinary system, affecting about one in every 400 to 800 newborns. In early fetal development, the kidneys start out as a single ridge of tissue that later separates and becomes two kidneys. But in some fetuses, incomplete separation results in a single, U-shaped kidney (horseshoe kidney).”

The condition increases the chance of developing kidney disease and other complications, including kidney obstruction, infections, stones and cancers.

As a result of the condition, Jacob now has trouble breathing due to retained fluid in his lungs that makes him feels as if he is drowning.

“There are some days I feel I have normal energy and others when I can’t get out of bed,” said Jacob, “I haven’t figured out the trigger.”

Jacob’s dad, Larry, has been accepted as the donor and, on Aug. 18, will join his son in the operating room at Portland’s Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital to provide him a new lease on life.

It is then that the long recovery process will begin for both Larry and Jacob, under the watchful eye of Sue.

Larry will remain in Portland for one month after surgery and Jacob for three, requiring the family to rent an apartment near the hospital for the duration.

Despite insurance paying 100 percent of the medical expenses, the costs associated with the recovery will be considerable.

“Having a kid that needs a kidney transplant is expensive,” said Sue, “But, Jacob needs a kidney to stay alive and so we will do it.”

The Dawson’s will need to add the expense of living in Portland for three months to their existing living expenses in Prineville.

“I will be out of work for 12 weeks, but will still need to pay the bills,” said Sue. “I will take three weeks’ vacation, and have no income for the other nine.”

Jacob will be required to remain near the hospital since his resistance to infection will be purposefully minimized in order to help prevent his body from rejecting the new kidney.

“Jacob will be on anti-rejection drugs for the rest of his life,” explained Sue, adding, with a laugh, that he is, after all, getting his dad’s 60-year-old kidney.

The family has turned to a number of fundraising efforts as a way to mitigate expenses.

A silent auction and pulled pork lunch will be held on Sunday, July 13. Donations are being accepted at the Wells Fargo Bank, and a page on the fundraising website has been created.

Sue admits that asking for money is difficult, saying that it is always easier to be a giver than a receiver, but that the Prineville community makes it less so.

“We haven’t been here for generations like most people, having only moved here in 2001,” she said. “But people have been more than generous and it is overwhelming how kind they have been.”

In addition to raising funds, the Dawsons are just trying to stay healthy.

“To have a disease that affects everything about me and that I will have to deal with for the rest of my life is a daunting task,” admitted Jacob. “It takes all my energy just to stay healthy. If I make one mistake, I could get very, very sick and end up postponing the surgery.”

Despite it all, Sue keeps her sense of humor.

“The good thing is that Jacob does have a horseshoe inside of him,” she laughed, “That must be good luck!”

A silent auction and pulled pork lunch fundraiser will be held on Sunday, July 13, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Sponsored by the Prineville Elks, the event will be held at 151 N. Main St. Tickets are $5 per person, and Ray’s Food Place is donating the food. There will be a silent auction that includes a handmade king size quilt, a wood stove pellet fuel, a dessert a month for a year, Avon products, a wooden porch chair, a cord of split pine wood and a one month membership to Norm’s Extreme Fitness.

Donations can also be made at the Wells Fargo Bank to the “Jacob Dawson kidney transplant account.”

Jacob Dawson’s sister, Tabitha Greller, has also set up a fundraising site at, named “Dawson Kidney.” To donate, go to

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