SALMON — Nathan Thompson was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder as an infant.
But he never thought the inherited disease would so handicap him that he is unable to work or provide for his wife and two daughters.
“I’m a 33-year-old guy. I should be out there working and taking care of my family — and I physically can’t. Mentally, it’s a hard thing to come to terms with,” the Salmon man said.
The condition, called pyruvate kinase deficiency, strikes about 1 in 20,000 people of European descent. Those affected are lacking an enzyme needed to produce red blood cells, which provide oxygen to body tissues, according to the National Institutes of Health.
The illness can cause anemia and jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. For Thompson, the past year has seen the disease cause painful ulcers and infections in his legs, which can become severely swollen if he stands for more than an hour.
His spirits have plummeted along with his red blood cells.
The condition forced him to give up his job at a car parts firm in December. Today his mounting bills — for everything from electric service to the mortgage — go unpaid. Thompson’s wife gained little education and even less English in her native Thailand, lowering her employment prospects.
Blood transfusions, the removal of his spleen and other medical procedures so far have failed to improve Thompson’s health.
The last blow for the one-time cable lineman came in February, when he said he was turned down for disability by the state. Since then, the family has been living in a state that Thompson described as “nearly terrified.”
Just when Thompson thought all hope was lost, locals, including churches, service organizations and businesses, learned of the family’s plight. Their efforts, and a push by his sister, Charity LaMont, have resulted in benefit, planned at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Elks Lodge in Salmon.
Gayla Lesley is among those who have worked to help Thompson — a friend of Lesley’s daughter when they were at Salmon High — and his family get back on their feet.
“He’s always worked to support his family and now he can’t,” she said. “It’s the right way to give back for all that’s been given to us.”
Pat Nielson said it’s the community’s way to respond when residents are in need.
“They’d do the same for us if we were in similar circumstances. That’s just what we do here,” she said.
Pulled pork as the entrée for the benefit meal — which is by donation — was brokered through LaMont’s employer, Food Services of America.
When LaMont approached local businesses for items for a silent auction during the benefit, she came away with a two-night stay at a cabin at nearby Williams Lake, cords of wood and gift certificates from restaurants.
“It’s overwhelming,” she said. “I’m humbled to be part of such an amazing community. I’ve never seen so much generosity.”
Two Salmon men will provide live music and an open bar is planned for a benefit that LaMont said is to be akin to a community party.
“It’s important for him to know how much people care about him because he’d gotten to the point where he was ready to lay down and die,” she said of her brother.
LaMont hopes to gain enough funds to bring the Thompson family’s bills current. Monetary donations can be made at an account in LaMont’s name at East Idaho Credit Union. The last four digits of the account are 5455.
For information, contact LaMont at (208) 756-7806.