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Surf community rallying around one of their own, a man they call ‘Surfing Kidneys,’ after his leg amputation

After years of fighting for a kidney transplant, having removed both of his own years ago in a battle with cancer, surfer Marcus Walton faced another life challenge this month.
Dialysis caused arteries in his left leg to clog up. Gangrene formed and covered his foot all the way up to his knee.
Surf friends from “Blackies” in Newport Beach surround Marcus Walton after he had his left leg amputated last week. (Photo courtesy Marcus Walton)
SoundThe gallery will resume insecondsMarcus Walton recently got a chance to surf the Kelly Slater Surf Ranch, a man-made pool in Lemoore. (Photo courtesy Marcus Walton)
Marcus Walton of Newport Beach, with his dog Otis, has lost both of his kidneys, and now had to undergo a leg amputation. (File photo, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Marcus Walton of Newport Beach has lost both of his kidneys, and now had to have his left leg amputated. (File photo, Orange County Register/SCNG)
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He had to have his leg amputated about a week ago.
Now surfers who know Walton as a familiar face at “Blackies” surf spot in Newport Beach are lifting up him in a wave of support. They’re launching a fundraising effort to raise money for his recovery so he can one day get back to what he loves: riding waves.
“I’m looking forward to a new chapter in my surf life with not having a leg,” Walton said. “We’ll see how it goes.”
‘Surfing Kidneys’
A typical day for Walton starts with dialysis before the sun rises. It lasts for hours: his blood sucked out of his veins, cleaned, then pumped back into his body.
Afterward, if he has enough energy, he goes surfing.
Riding waves at Newport’s famed surf breaks is something he’s done since he was a teen, riding the bus from his hometown in Irvine.
In the mid-2000s, he started getting leg cramps. Then, a strange amount of dandruff showed up on his head. Then, a bloody nose.
The bleeding wouldn’t stop, so he went to see a doctor.
When the doctor told him he had renal kidney cancer, he responded: “I think you have the wrong person, I’m in here for a bloody nose,” according to an interview he gave a few years ago .
His right kidney was eaten away by cancer, and after attempting to rid it through chemotherapy, he decided to have it removed.
When he was in 2014 his other kidney — the left one — had been attacked by cancer as well. So he then had that one removed.
After his surgery, the surfing community rallied behind him, holding fundraising events as he made his way back into the water to resume his surfer lifestyle, which he’s mostly been able to do the past few years.
His moniker became “Surfing Kidneys” to those who knew him in and out of the water.
He’s so well known in the local surf community, someone put his name in the hat for a special day surfing Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch, an experience few people have had since it opened earlier this year in Lemoore.
“It was so awesome,” he said of riding the man-made waves.
Rash gone bad
He had to wait until he was clear of cancer for at least four years before he could get a kidney transplant.
He dreamed of the day he could stop doing hours-long dialysis, and regain some energy and normalcy in his life.
And this, 2018, was the four-year mark of being cancer free.
Then, the rash on his leg appeared about a month ago.
“We didn’t know what the rash was, it could have a spider bite, some bad food,” he said.
Marcus Walton recently got a chance to surf the Kelly Slater Surf Ranch, a man-made pool in Lemoore. (Photo courtesy Marcus Walton)
After countless tests, results came back. Gangrene was spreading.
He fought it, hoping the antibiotics and pain pills would allow him to beat the decay. Doctors said it takes at least six months to a year to heal, if at all.
“Most people just amputate to have a better quality of life,” they told him. “I was like ‘no way, I’m going to fight this’… just stay positive, I can do this.”
But the gangrene wasn’t getting better.
“Things weren’t changing. But every day, I’d take bandages off, it was the most painful thing,” he said. “I know what pain is all about. But this was a totally different ball game. It wasn’t growing, but it wasn’t diminishing.”
It looked like something out of a zombie movie, he said.
“My leg was like the living dead.”
Then, one of his veins collapsed and doctors told him it was time. They needed to cut off his leg.
“No one was saying ‘we can beat this’,” he said. “By then, my leg was gruesome.”
And for Walton, it came down to that life decision: Fight for his leg, an unbearably painful journey. Or cut it off so he could fight for what he’s wanted all along – a new kidney.
“I already went through depression, I was a low point. I just couldn’t take it anymore,” he said.
So last week, he had his leg removed.
A future on the waves
Walton joked that at 49, he had to slow down anyhow. But then, friends reminded him of how far advancements in prostheses have come, and that there are plenty of amputees who still ride waves.
“I was feeling sorry for myself, instead of thinking of the positive things and all the things I can still do,” he said.
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He remembers a surfer who was at the Surf Ranch with him riding waves on that day dedicated to wave riders with special needs. The surfer had his leg amputated from the knee down.
“I want to get in touch with him,” he said.
For now, he’s focusing on rehabilitation for the next few weeks – but soon, he said, he’ll be back in the ocean.
“I’m pretty gung-ho,” he said. “It will all work out, everything is going to fine.”
It’s that positive outlook that has surfers rallying around him, to help him along his journey. A GoFundMe page has been set up in his name by friends to help mounting hospital bills and to get a prosthetic leg he can use while surfing.
And hopefully soon, he can get that kidney transplant he’s always wanted.
“Once I get my kidney, I’ll have my quality of life,” he said.
Source: OC Register

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