SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP — Sitting in the living room of his Shawnee Township home, Damian Tibbs bounced his 4-year-old daughter Amia on his lap, telling the story of how lucky he is to be alive and healthy.
Tibbs, 35, is an Allen County Sheriff’s Office detective who was diagnosed with Berger’s disease in 2011, an autoimmune disease which results in kidney failure. On Jan. 13, 2012, he received a donor kidney from his brother in Las Vegas, and things have significantly improved from there. He’s overjoyed to be celebrating the one-year anniversary of his transplant with good health.
“Everything is going really well,” he said.
He said he has blood drawn every other week to ensure that his kidney function is good, and he also makes a trip to the Cleveland Clinic a few times a year for an in-depth checkup. He also has to avoid contact sports, but it’s miniscule sacrifices when comparing to what he’s been through.
The last few years have been rough for the Tibbs’ family, but now they’re finally able to establish a sense of normalcy again. His wife, Brooke, said it’s been a surreal experience.
“It was like living a nightmare,” said Brooke Tibbs, 30. “But I know God walked with me through it all. His brother and just everybody has given us hope.
“You don’t forget, obviously, but we live a normal life now. He doesn’t know anything about it,” she said, pointing to their 1-year-old son Dreyden, “But he’ll run up to his dad after he gets off work and says ‘Dada!’ That’s when you remember really how grateful, because I know what it could be.”
Tibbs received his diagnosis when his wife was three months pregnant with their son. He went on peritoneal dialysis for more than a year while still working full-time at the Sheriff’s Office. It’s not a decision for the weak-willed; many who go on dialysis are unable to maintain steady jobs because of how much time and energy the process takes.
Tibbs is also thankful in the fact that the community came together in raising money for him, funding things like his brother’s flights to Lima from Las Vegas in preparation for the transplant. And if it weren’t for his brother Carlos’ generosity, giving him a kidney, Tibbs said he might still be on the transplant waiting list. Receiving a kidney from a waiting list could take years.
“There’s no way to ask someone, hey can I have your kidney?,” he said. “I didn’t ask anyone, but I made them aware that there was an option that those were the things that could help me. And basically, the doctor said that the only thing that would help me would be a transplant. Either that or dialysis forever.”
And while dialysis helped his situation, it wasn’t a perfect solution by any means. There was one incident where the dialysis machine gave him too much fluid. He began seizing and collapsed to the floor. He was rushed to the hospital and had eventually stabilized, but Tibbs said he almost died.
There is a 10 percent chance the Berger’s disease could affect his new kidney, but Tibbs instead focuses on positve aspects, like being able to help others. This experience has helped him grow.
In addition to working at the Sheriff’s Office, he’s also a minister at New Life Christian Ministries in Lima, where his father is the pastor.
“I have been able to talk to people who are going through different health issues because I’ve been there,” he said, “And I just feel like this has given me the opportunity to share my story with people. And I’ve had people tell me that as they saw me go through this, it gave them strength to face the things that they were facing at the time. And that’s encouraging to me. That’s what I enjoy, that’s what my purpose is.”