Remembering Gary Coleman

Gift of Life Gala 1987-- Gary Coleman bringing public awarness to kidney diseaseGary-Coleman-Wonder-WomanI’m Gary Coleman’s age.  He and I grew up together….only he was on TV every week.  About the time I reached puberty and grew 3 inches in a single summer, I learned he would never grow taller than 4’8 because of kidney failure.   I didn’t really watch Diff’rent Strokes that much, but I do remember it was the first time I’d heard of Kidney Failure or dialysis.  The idea that I would grow up, and he would forever be child-sized always stayed with me.   Later, when I came to work for the National Kidney Foundation of Utah, Gary Coleman –still pretty fresh from his stardom on TV came to many NKF events to help bring public awareness about kidney disease.  Gary’s life after the show was difficult and he was often in the news doing shocking things.  But he’d had a rough life; he’d worked really hard as a kid actor, was living with kidney failure, and would never grow to be the tall man he would have been were it not for kidney failure—all while in the public eye after being a child star.  I know his trouble didn’t stop when he came to Utah.  I always wondered why he settled in Santaquin. I hope he found some peace here in Utah Valley.  I know life on prednisone and other immunosuppressants (post transplant drugs) can make you really cranky, fuzzy, sick and a whole plethora of crazy. But what I want to remember is that, he used  his early celebrity status to help raise awareness for other people living with kidney disease.  Now days, there is early testing, better medicines to control underlying conditions that cause kidney failure, better transplantation techniques.  If Gary had been born even 10 year later than he was, perhaps his experience with Kidney Failure would not have been such a big part of his life story.  But it does not escape me, that he was my age, of my era, he lived in my town, he had kidney disease and I worked for the Kidney Foundation.  Now he’s gone at the age of 42.  I hope he is remembered for his charity work.  My deepest condolences go to those who loved and will miss him. –Luz Lewis

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