Politician/Kidney Transplant Recipient

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Mike Shelton is a Yuma city councilman-elect, and one of the first kidney-transplant recipients to hold public office. He’ll talk about his transplant and how it’s impacting the way he looks at his responsibilities as a public office holder.

TED SIMONS: Mike Shelton is a Yuma City councilman-elect, a former "Arizona Horizon" producer, and one of the first kidney transplant recipients to hold public office. We recently spoke with Shelton about his transplant and how it might impact the way he looks at his responsibilities as an elected public official. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." Good to have you here.

MIKE SHELTON: Great to be here, Ted.

TED SIMONS: Good to see you again. Kidney transplant recipient in elected office. How rare is that?

MIKE SHELTON: So far as I know, I'm it. I had a conversation with my chief surgeon, Dr. Richard Mulligan, who was the chief surgeon at Mayo clinic and my chief surgeon, we had a conversation about a month ago and he said that to his knowledge, I am the only post-kidney transplanted elected official and I haven't heard of anyone else really in the country and I'm a political junkie.

TED SIMONS: You are indeed and you've been elected to the Yuma city council, you haven't gotten into office yet, sworn in, in January correct?

MIKE SHELTON: That's correct.

TED SIMONS: What are you concerned about? Will there be challenges or things you're worried about? What do you think?

MIKE SHELTON: I have absolutely no worries whatsoever. In fact, one of the reasons I decided to run is because I want people who are facing transplants, who have had a transplant to know they are capable of doing virtually anything they want to do and to keep their dreams alive. When I went into it, and, in fact, let me just back up for a moment. I was at 7% kidney function at the time I was getting ready for the transplant. I had very few problems because I followed my regime, I followed my diet, I exercised strenuously, I took various herbal supplements with the knowledge of my doctor and whereas normally someone at 7% kidney function is death warmed over and needed dialysis. I rejected the thought of it as a primitive, barbaric practice, that's going to upset somebody but I don't care. By really mobilizing my body and having a positive mental attitude, I was able to keep myself going and be really well from all of my blood tests and the way I felt, no fatigue, no metallic taste in my mouth, no anything until I had my transplant and I was given by a live donor, a good friend of mine. When I did this in 2011, there were 381 transplants in Arizona. Fewer than half of those were from live donors. So I'm a product of less than half of those who had transplants during my time.

TED SIMONS: Was this something that you always knew had to happen? You didn't necessarily feel all that bad but you knew it was coming around the pike?

MIKE SHELTON: Actually, about a year earlier, it was clear that I was having a rapid decline and my doctors warned me I was going to need dialysis and at the same time, my wife had Hodgkins lymphoma and the plan was she was feeling all right but she had a rapid decline at the same time. And instead of her taking care of me, I was trying to save her. And I lost her in late 2010.

TED SIMONS: I'm sorry to hear that.

MIKE SHELTON: But in my case, once it was clear that I was going to need a transplant, I did everything I could really to save myself. I juiced vegetables, and I hate vegetables but I found a way to like 'em! I followed my doctor's instructions. I made a partner of my doctor. When we were at loggerheads about dialysis, we had a long conversation about that and I brought her over to my side. We had frequent tests to make sure that I was okay and, in fact, in my blood tests, it showed me fine in every way, except in the amount of creatinine, the amount of protein in your body, that was too high, that was like the final determinant but in everything else, I was fine. So when it comes to serving in office, what I'm going to bring is a different kind of perspective. I'm not just thinking about budgets and taxes, I'm thinking about life and death, I'm thinking about the dignity of the individual, I'm thinking about telling the truth and I'm talking about respecting the individual. That is like my core value. And everything else is going to emanate from that.

TED SIMONS: Did the transplant change those views in any way?

MIKE SHELTON: No, no. I look forward to it, I prepared myself for it, I trained for it in terms of training my body, and really my will to live. So, no, it was a natural progression, in fact, I'll give you one quick story out of that. When I was at Mayo clinic, hours after the transplant, I was given a morphine drip that I could hit a button and ease any pain. Well, the nurse kept coming in saying why haven't you used your morphine drip? Aren't you in pain? And I said no, I'm not in pain. Would you like me to be in pain? I don't like pain. If I'm in pain I'll hit the button. They had never had anyone who was in zero pain. I had none.

TED SIMONS: Indeed but I still want to know if this whole transplant changed your view of life, your view of politics, just your view -- a lot of folks go through something like this and they sense themselves changing. Are you saying no changes at all?

MIKE SHELTON: I was already in that train of thought so to speak. I was extremely strong will to live, I had a very strong sense of the dignity of the individual. Sometimes, I followed authority, sometimes, I rejected it, and, in fact, I was asked to go on dialysis multiple times and I followed my instinct no, and I did things that were very smart to keep myself from becoming mow debilitated that I would need it. So when it comes to politics, here's the core view. Prevention is better than cure so when you think of everything in life, whether it's the way you deal with taxes, whether the way you're dealing with citizens, you want to prevent problems, not allow them to% and escalate to the point you need some radical remedy.

TED SIMONS: And last question, that's the same message to those facing health issues I would imagine, as well.

MIKE SHELTON: Yes, it is, don't face it with vodka and a pile of ribs! Follow your diet and make your doctor your partner and do the things that will make you better in the end. That's the message I'm putting out.

TED SIMONS: The anti-vodka and a pile of ribs diet. We've got you. It's good to see you, thanks for joining us.

MIKE SHELTON: Thank you, Ted.

Mike Shelton:Yuma city councilman

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