KENTWOOD, Mich. — A Kentwood man used to have a lot of hobbies, but because of a years-long battle with kidney disease, that's been reduced to just one — racing. As his search for a donor continues, he's now taking his message to the track, hoping to raise awareness and find a match.
Racing is anything but predictable, which is a perfect parallel for Shawn Dyson’s life as of late.
“Once you’re in, you’re in, you know. It’s in your blood” Dyson said.
He was drawn to the sport back in 1995, working for business owned by a driver at the time.
There was an instant connection.
In fact, Shawn and Stacey — his wife of almost 16 years now — had their first date at a drag strip.
“We were just spectators," said Shawn. "We sat in the stands. The 4-cylinders just kept buzzing by and buzzing by. I looked at her one day and I just said, ‘I want to go racing.’”
Dyson worked hard to turn that dream into reality. However, a couple years ago, he was hit with shocking news.
“One day I was living my life," said Dyson. “The next day, the doctor’s telling me I need to get on dialysis because my kidneys are starting to fail.”
For two and a half years, Dyson has been hooking up to dialysis every single day, hoping to eventually find a kidney donor.
He was only added to the donor list in November, and he’s worried his blood - which is Type O - will continue keep him from finding a match.
“That’s all I can accept," said Dyson. "Anybody else can get whatever kidney they want. They can get O’s, A’s, B’s. I have to have an O. That’s the problem.”
Dyson said dialysis takes a lot out of him and takes him away from simple pleasures, but it can’t take him away from the track.
“(It's) life changing, for sure," said Dyson. "There’s a lot of things I can’t do. I can’t go swimming, I can’t hot tub. Those are things I like to do. But I can race.”
Shawn raced seven times at the Berlin Raceway in Marne last year. When the track’s 72nd season kicks off Apr. 16, Dyson will be back behind the wheel, hoping to get his first top ten finish and raise awareness to find a replacement.
“I’m going to put a logo on the car," Dyson told FOX 17. "I’m not sure how I’m going to word it yet. I haven’t figured that out. It’s going to be on the car. I’m going to make sure it’s nice and big and bright, so everybody can see it."
Dyson said he plans on being in all 15 races this year, unless, of course, he finds a donor.
While the sport has a reputation for being loud and electric, Dyson said it keeps him relaxed, and offers an escape from his sickness, which he hopes will be in his rear-view very soon.
“The racing takes me away from the kidney disease, the Dialysis, the hooking up every night to it. It just takes it away.”
Dyson said the waiting list in Michigan is five to seven years. Even though he just got on the list, those two-and-a-half years he's already spent on dialysis count toward his time.
So at most, he has five years to receive a kidney, but he obviously hopes it happens sooner, and his replacement comes from a living donor.
If you think you might be a match, or you'd like to learn more, visit Dyson's donor page at nkr.org.