Clyde Simms needs a kidney transplant. Thousands of others do, as well. As his condition worsens, the former D.C. United midfielder hopes to raise awareness about a disease that forced him to retire in February.
“I’m young, I’m healthy, I’m active,” Simms, 31, told the Insider on Wednesday. “People think it only happens to those who don’t care take of themselves. It’s a silent killer; there aren’t usually any symptoms. It happened to me and it can happen to anyone. If someone learns more about it and gets evaluated, it will make me happy. That’s my number one goal.”
Simms, who played seven seasons in Washington and the past two in New England, has had focal segmental glomerulosclerosis since high school. It’s the same type of kidney disease that afflicted NBA stars Alonzo Mourning and Sean Elliott in the prime of their careers.
For years, unbeknownst to the public, Simms took medication that allowed him to play soccer at the pro level and reach the U.S. national team. But his kidney function has slowly declined, dropping to 20 percent when he announced his retirement and to about 14 percent now. When it reaches 10 percent, he will need to begin dialysis.
Three weeks ago, he joined some 99,000 other Americans on the official list for a kidney transplant. The typical wait is four years.
Dialysis is a life-saving measure but only performs a fraction of what a healthy kidney does. Life expectancy varies by patient. Over time, a transplant is necessary. According to the National Kidney Foundation, 14,000 kidney transplants were done last year (9,300 from deceased donors and 4,700 from living donors). Someone is added to the kidney waiting list every 20 minutes.
His twin sisters, Kendra and Cabria, were willing to donate, but because of a family history of kidney disease indirectly related to Simms’s ailment, they and other family members were ruled out, he said. Living organ donors are typically from the patient’s family but unrelated donors are common as well.
Simms, who has remained in the Boston area since retiring, is making a public service announcement video with the Revolution this week and plans to participate in a kidney walk May 4 at Camden Yards in Baltimore. The outreach campaign will reach Washington this Saturday night when United hosts the Revolution. Simms said he is tentatively planning to attend the game at RFK Stadium, where he broke into MLS in 2005 and climbed to fifth on United’s career list in regular season appearances (182) and sixth in starts (147).
Simms received moral support this week from NFL wide receiver Donald Jones, 26, who, in December, received a kidney donated by his father. The conversation was arranged by Simms’s medical team at Massachusetts General Hospital. (Last year Jones signed with the New England Patriots, who own the Revolution.)
While he awaits further treatment, Simms is carrying on with his post-soccer career. He is in the process of opening a spinning studio in Dedham, Mass., called REV*D and staying active at the gym and in the yoga studio.
The illness, though, has led him to confront mortality.
“I am normally a positive person, but it’s hard not to think about it. With kidneys, you do have options. It’s not like a heart or lung where you have to have a transplant. There is some hope. It’s not ideal, but it’s what I have. By spreading the word and educating people, I feel like I can accomplish a lot.”
For questions about kidney disease and his situation, Simms encourages the public to contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Revolution has created a web page with further details.