March 31, 2023

Iowa man receives heart and kidney transplant

By Curt Swarm

Thad Crane and his wife Laura live in the old Selma schoolhouse. In fact, Thad sleeps in his old homeroom. You wouldn’t know it from the outside, but their living space on the first floor of the school is a beautiful, 3,500 sq. ft. mansion. They have nine-foot-tall doors, 15 foot high ceilings, and floor heat. The schoolhouse sits on a hill. Driving there, and looking up at the school, I could see a man waving me to the right entrance. Even from that distance, maybe fifty yards, he appeared to be one of the healthiest middle-aged men I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to believe that Thad Crane was once over 300 pounds, and last Thanksgiving Day he received the gift of life — a new heart and kidney.

In October 2011 Thad was in a terrible traffic accident that left him with a compound fracture of the femur, a broken sternum, and two broken hands from hitting the windshield. His dog tags were bent around the steering wheel. In surgery at Methodist Hospital in Des Moines, they put a steel rod in his femur. That dislodged some bone marrow that traveled to Thad’s lungs and heart and stopped his left ventricle.

He was transferred to the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics in Iowa City. The left ventricle of his heart was shot, only functioning at less than 20 percent, causing Congestive Heart Failure (CHF). Water built up on Thad’s lungs, and the diuretics given him to dispel the fluid, over loaded his kidneys. It was discovered that he had a rare hereditary kidney disease called Thin Basement Membrane Disease (TBMD) that affects the kidney’s ability to filter wastes from the blood. Less than 1 percent of the population has this disorder. Thad’s kidneys were failing and he was put on dialysis.

Then the leg that was broken calcified and Thad could barely walk. When Thad had the accident, he weighed a cool 180 lbs. Because of his forced inactivity, difficulty walking, and the medications he was taking, Thad ballooned to a whopping 300 lbs!

He needed a kidney transplant, but it was feared his heart wouldn’t hold up. Thad needed both a heart and kidney transplant. The odds of both a heart and kidney becoming available were slim to none. And he would have to lose weight before the doctors would do the surgery. On his own, Thad lost about 20 lbs. Gastric bypass surgery was performed to bring him down to an acceptable weight. Now it was a waiting game for a heart and kidney. It happened fast! Both from the same donor.

The surgeons flew to where the donor was and harvested the organs. They flew back, and on November 24, 2021, the day before Thanksgiving, Thad Crane got a new heart. It started beating immediately without being shocked. Five hours later, on Thanksgiving morning, Thad Crane got his kidney. What a gift to be thankful for!

To say Thad and his wife Laura are thankful is an understatement. Due to heroic efforts by a team of doctors, nurses and surgeons at the University of Iowa Hospital, performing marathon transplant surgeries on Thanksgiving Day, Thad Crane is alive and healthier than ever. At 55 and 178 lbs he is now walking five miles a day, and taking flying lessons. He can even pass his flight physical!

Thad only wants to pay it forward. You could say he puts his whole heart into it. So many people helped him. Humbled by what he went through, he wants to instill hope and love. No matter what the adversity and Thad saw patients who were worse off than him, there is always hope and something to be thankful for. Thad is living proof and walks the talk. His full name is Thad Lewis Crane or TLC. Tender Loving Care for all.

Contact Curt Swarm at