Fox 7 story on veteran’s plight catches attention of 2 U.S. senators

Rebecca Thomas
Rebecca Thomas

A series of reports that aired recently on Fox 7 caught the attention of a pair of U.S. senators, prompting them to introduce new legislation.

Rebecca Thomas, who anchors the station’s 5 p.m., 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts, introduced viewers to Charles Nelson, a veteran from Leander in need of a kidney transplant.

It’s a story that was personal for Thomas, who donated one of her kidneys to her mom last year.

Nelson’s son, Coty, was a match and ready to donate – but there was a problem. The U.S. Veterans Administration said that, because Nelson’s son wasn’t a veteran, the procedure wouldn’t be covered under its “Choice” program.

Ultimately, Charles had to qualify for Medicare and rely on that program to pay for the life-saving surgery instead.

“When his wife first contacted the station, this sounded like such an injustice,” Thomas said. “Being a living kidney donor, I know what’s involved and how tough it is. This was an undue burden for them.”

Thomas did some digging and found that the VA didn’t appear to be interpreting the rules for the Choice program as lawmakers had intended.

In a statement provided to Fox 7, U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Florida), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs said the VA had “created a technicality that doesn’t exist, as basic common sense dictates that in cases of transplants, the donor’s medical care is an essential part of the procedure.”

Not long after that, U.S. Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) introduced the Veterans Transplant Coverage Act, which seeks to clarify the Choice program’s rules.

“Our veterans who have sacrificed so much for our nation deserve the best possible health care we can give them, but unfortunately, the VA bureaucracy is not doing everything they can to help those who need life-saving transplant procedures,” Sen. Cornyn said. “I thank Sen. Kirk for his leadership on this issue, and I hope we can pass this bill to help veterans in Texas and across the nation cut through the red tape and receive quality, life-changing care.”

The goal, Thomas said, is to keep other veterans from facing similar obstacles.

“The family is very happy a fix is coming down the line,” she said. “Advocacy journalism is wonderful. How many other veterans are there who don’t have someone advocating for them? It’s scary. Being able to expose a wrong and see some action is incredibly gratifying.”

As for Thomas and her mom, they’re both doing well, post-surgery. Thomas was back on air just a couple weeks after the procedure, and her mom is showing no signs of rejecting the donated kidney.

“It’s almost like it never happened,” she said.

Fox 7 anchor back on air after donating kidney to her mom

Rebecca Thomas (Fox 7 photo)
Rebecca Thomas (Fox 7 photo)

Fox 7 anchor Rebecca Thomas returns to the air Wednesday night, just a couple weeks after she donated a kidney to her mother.

Initially, Thomas will only work part-time, anchoring the station’s 9 and 10 p.m. newscasts.

She’ll return to full-time status on Dec. 21, a Fox 7 spokesperson said, reappearing on the station’s 5 p.m. broadcast.

Thomas flew to California last month so doctors could remove one of her kidneys to give to her mother, who was on dialysis.

The surgery went well for both mom and daughter, according to Thomas’ posts on social media.

Fox 7 anchor donating kidney to her mother

Rebecca Thomas (Fox 7 photo)
Rebecca Thomas (Fox 7 photo)

This holiday season, Rebecca Thomas is giving the gift of life.

Thomas, who co-anchors the 5 p.m., 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts on Fox-owned KTBC-TV alongside Mike Warren, will donate one of her kidneys to her mother later this month.

“It was a huge decision but, really, it was a no-brainer for me,” Thomas said. “My mom is so deserving of this. I’m so happy I can give her a good quality of life.”

Thomas’ mother suffered from Lupus, an autoimmune disease, earlier in life that left her kidneys badly scarred, among other medical issues. Over time, her kidney function has steadily decreased, hovering today at around 15 percent.

Earlier this year, Thomas said her mom was forced to begin dialysis treatments three hours a day, three times a week as her kidneys continued to degrade.

It was then that Thomas said she started seriously looking into getting her mom a kidney transplant. She was shocked to find the wait is typically somewhere between five and seven years.

That’s when Thomas, the oldest of three children, decided to get tested.

“I just knew I’d be a match,” she said. “And, after they put me through a battery of tests, we found out I was.”

The surgery will take place next week in California. Thomas said she’ll be off the air for about two and a half weeks, followed by two weeks of working part time, only anchoring the 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. broadcasts. By the first of the year, she should be back to her regular schedule.

Thomas said her remaining kidney will grow to make up for the one set to go to her mother, meaning she’ll be able to live a normal life after healing from the surgery.

“I’m scared. There are nerves, for sure,” she said. “But I’ll be just fine.”

With barely two months on the job at Fox 7, Thomas, who arrived here after spending a decade in Phoenix, admits the timing isn’t ideal. But her family comes first, and she said her bosses are A-OK with that.

“Everyone at Fox has been awesome,” Thomas said. “They’ve been so supportive.”

That support extends on air, where Thomas is getting time during the station’s newscasts to report on her procedure in hopes of convincing more potential donors to get tested.

“We need to get more people registered,” she said. “Many people have died waiting. If you’re healthy, you only need one kidney. We all have a spare.”

For more details on organ donation, visit donatelifetexas.org.

Fox 7 hires new weeknight news anchor

Rebecca Thomas (Twitter photo)
Rebecca Thomas (Twitter photo)

KTBC’s Mike Warren is getting a new co-anchor.

Rebecca Thomas will join Warren for the Fox-owned station’s 5 p.m., 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts beginning Sept. 21.

She fills the spot vacated by Christine Haas, who left earlier this summer to start her own business.

Most recently, Thomas was at KPHO, the CBS affiliate in Phoenix. She also worked for Phoenix ABC affiliate KNXV, as well as stations in Palm Springs, Calif.; and Yuma, Ariz.

Thomas is a graduate of San Diego State University.

“Storytelling is my passion and I look forward to telling the stories of the people in this vibrant community,” she said.