Doug Thomas

Vasculitis Foundation life member
Alliance, NE, United States

About Doug


I wrote an long autobiography, got as far as "People Don't Know I'm Good At", and hit a wrong key, taking me completely out of this. When I came back, the parts easiest to reproduce were still there and the hardest parts to reproduce joined the angels. Or something. The single most significant detail in my life is I survived severe Wegener's granulomatosis, a rare form of vasculitis. As recently as the 1960's, a diagnosis of WG was a death sentence for most people who devloped it. Now, knowledge of how to treat it is sufficient to save all but a small percentage of people who develop it. In part, it is why I chose to retire about two months before my 61st birthday. Not because I couldn't continue my work, which mostly involved sitting on my butt crunching numbers all day. But because I kissed death on the lips in 2003 and know that WG may limit the length of my life. I felt- and feel- that I have too much to share with others to waste another day crunching numbers no one truly used to any good purpose! Oh yeah, I was a US Army motion picture photographer in Germany in the early 1970's, which was major fun! Everything else is detail.



Areas of Expertise

Statistical Process Control, Photography and video

An idea worth spreading

The joy of volunteerism. Each person has gifts he can share. Each person has an obligation to share those gifts. For example, my mother taught Red Cross Swimming for 60 years. I, because I've experienced near-death and physical and medical vicissitudes because of WG, am good with elderly people and people dealing with that subtle mental adjustment to a state of acceptance- not resignation!- with a "new normal" state that age and disease bring about. The family motto is "Service to others is the price you pay for the space you occupy." Retiring early allows me to take on that challenge before I am, frankly, dead.

I'm passionate about

Baroque operas, most music before 1850, some after. Life.

Talk to me about

Politics mixing with religion to influence science policy or morality based on a narrow reading of scripture.

People don't know I'm good at

Blogging, vlogging, and making quirky, humorous collage storybooks for very few good friends.

My TED story

We'll see what develops.

Favorite talks

Comments & conversations

Doug Thomas
Posted about 2 years ago
Camille Seaman: Photos from a storm chaser
Living on the Great Plains, in Tornado Alley, I can verify that the most beautiful- and terrifying - clouds often are the most dangerous. It is difficult not to be swept up in their movement, changing intensity, and incredible colors. Ms. Seaman conveys that very well.
Doug Thomas
Posted about 2 years ago
Joshua Prager: In search of the man who broke my neck
The expectation of fairness and closure in all bad or unhappy situations stunts lesser people till they have insights as profound as Mr. Prager's. Forgiveness of others can't occur until one accepts one's own culpability, those flaws we push outside the myths we create about ourselves. The emotional benefit of accepting what one can do and what one is rather than wallowing in what one can't be because of health or physical limitations or what one isn't can't be underplayed. I agree with others: This is the best TED talk I can remember. There was one comment about rote presentation that missed the greater message. The words, the emotions, the struggles lived were there, just made a bit smoother so we (one hopes) don't miss the greater point of this talk.
Doug Thomas
Posted about 4 years ago
What 3 things did you learn while you were in a near-death experience?
I walked around for 10 months with a disease that kills approximately 65% of people wyho develop it within 5 months. By the time I sought medical attention (i.e. could not breathe, had to be transported to the hospital by ambulance), I was beginning to go into renal failure. Yeah. I thought I had flue, a cold, incipient rhumatism, this and that, so treated myself with over-the-counter drugs. My doctor, when he gave me his opinion of what I had (Wegener's granulomatosis, now called GPA or Granulomatosis with something- "...a rose by any other name...", eh?!), he noted I would be dead (not MIGHT be or COULD be) within two years. Did I have a traditional "light at the end of the tunnel" experience. No. What I had was a realization I was a dead man my doctors wer about to try to revive through drugs (Cytoxan and Prednisone) and an experimental procedure involving dialysis and phlasmapheresis. This was in December 2003-January 2004, so, clearly, it worked. What did I learn from the experience, in no partuicular order? 1. That family and friends are more important than everything else in this world. 2. That I can die, though I'd spent a life in denial of that basic biological fact. 3. "Yes" or "no" answer most questions adequately well enough to let you move on to the next question. I used to waste lots of time worrrying out answers. Oftentimes I stumbled because I didn't ask the right question.
Doug Thomas
Posted almost 6 years ago
Michael Pritchard: How to make filthy water drinkable
The Rule of Unintended Consequences may well come into play. You provide people with the technology, then pack up and leave. At some point the filters are used up. Will the users know when to stop using the filter (I may have missed this in the talk)? Or will the continue to use it, thinking they have pure water when they do not. I see a "drill a well and provide a deisel pump, but neglect to provide replacement parts and training to fix the pump when it breaks down" sort of senarfio here, only on a less complex but more individual level. I hope I am wrong in all respects as this seems a great development with the potential to do good.