Jim Valley says, “I’m the f**king king of recovery,” and he’s certainly earned that right. He’s both faced and overcome several dire health situations during the last ten years.
Jim is a professional wrestling devotee, and like pro wrestling, his story encompasses some of life’s most intense and genuine experiences, such as challenge, danger, courage, resilience and joyous celebration. True to form in the pro wrestling world, he can be both provocative and funny, sometimes at the same time, but he is always committed.
Jim is also a kidney patient at Northwest Kidney Centers. He does peritoneal dialysis at his home in Kirkland with the support of his wife Kari and a care team at Northwest Kidney Centers that is a phone call away.
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He’s been a wrestling fan since he was a boy. “Nothing is cooler when you’re a 10-year-old kid,” he says. Young or old he says that nobody should ever be embarrassed to be a fan. Wrestling offers the opportunity for “a suspension of disbelief worthy of any dramatic performance.”
All of this deep appreciation shines through in the catchphrase for which he is known, “I’m Jim Valley and I f**king love pro wrestling.”
Facing a rare condition
While he does appreciate the dramatic, he was lucky to survive a punishing health event he experienced in 2012. Thinking he had laryngitis, Jim went to the doctor after coughing up blood.
His condition turned out to be far more serious, and he was hospitalized immediately. The diagnosis was a rare autoimmune disease called Granulomatosis with polyangiitis, which attacks a person’s blood vessels, and his body was under a full assault.
Jim recovered over a five-month stay, and during that time, Kari worked full-time from outside his room, practically living at the hospital. Jim credits her sacrifices and support when he talks about his recovery. While that first bout caused minor damage to his kidneys, Jim was able to go about his life without further incident.
Eight years later in December 2020, a second flare up occurred. This time his lungs, liver and kidneys were all at risk. Jim found himself back in the hospital, looking at another months-long stay.
Kari was there for Jim again, but this time COVID safety precautions prevented her from daily visits, let alone temporary living at the hospital. The added difficulties experienced by patients and loved ones due to COVID-related protocols are well-known.
At one point months into his stay, Jim says he felt so isolated and desperate for human contact, he asked a nurse’s aide to hold his hand for a few minutes. He is still thankful she did.
Interestingly, Jim may have been the only person in the Pacific Northwest to have been hospitalized, intubated, on a ventilator and facing the direst of outcomes who did not have COVID. He became an advocate of masking simply because he’d experienced the unpleasantness of the extreme treatment measures often needed for COVID patients.
One day toward the end of his last hospital stay, one of his nurses laughed while she read his chart. He asked what was so funny. She began reading a note that one of the doctors had added to his chart: This patient is the f**king king of recovery.
Jim says he wasn’t aiming to come up with another catchy phrase. He had just been sort of binge-watching shows about kings and queens and royalty. When the doctor said, “You’re recovering nicely,” during the previous day’s rounds, Jim had simply responded, “That’s because I’m the f**king king of recovery” without thinking about it. By the time he was discharged, the episode had gone far beyond his medical chart.
Within the pro wrestling community, his health challenges did not go unnoticed. One of Jim’s colleagues had heard and made some commemorative t-shirts that became a Top 20 seller on www.pwmania.com. A GoFundMe page in his name got a substantial response. Jim had no idea that so many people were in his corner, and says he felt overwhelmed when more than 1,500 people donated to help him and Kari, including pro wrestler Chris Jericho and Tony Khan, co-owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars and president of All Elite Wrestling.
All showmanship aside, Jim says he’s “just a guy who wants to live” and had incredible support. “It’s amazing that so many people care,” he says.
Life on dialysis
The last flare up of his condition left his kidneys damaged to the point that dialysis was necessary. Jim says a friend told him to go with Northwest Kidney Centers, and he’s glad he listened. The people at Northwest Kidney Centers have been “incredibly helpful.”
Initially Jim was being treated at a dialysis clinic, but then transitioned to Peritoneal Dialysis (PD), a home-based approach. Home dialysis offers more flexibility and independence than in-center dialysis, and often better outcomes. He and Kari were thoroughly trained by clinical staff on all facets of home treatment and receive ongoing support.
“Kari is a successful travel advisor, so one of the things we are grateful for is that PD gives us the ability to travel again. The machine gives us more freedom to do what we love,” says Jim.
“My PD nurse Joe Anderson is very knowledgeable,” Jim says. “He communicates clearly and simply so anyone can understand. Plus, his dry sense of humor makes every visit enjoyable.”
He’s noticed and appreciates that Northwest Kidney Centers is there for people whether they’ve done well in life or weren’t dealt a great hand. “As a patient, I see people all treated with the same care. I like that.”
Jim feels blessed to have Kari as his care partner and approaches life with the same tenacity and excitement he loves to see in the ring. He continues to be active, contributing his commentaries while addressing his health needs.
Last year Jim made the trek to Las Vegas to attend the annual meeting of the Cauliflower Alley Coalition (CAC), a 56-year-old organization made of ex- and current wrestling industry people, to show his support and to say thanks for the support he’d received. What he didn’t know was that the CAC would present him with its Courage Award for the way he faced his medical situation.
Speaking to the CAC group was another opportunity for Jim to share his affection for the sport and all of those involved. Nowadays when he says, “I’m Jim Valley and I f**king love pro wrestling,” there is a deeper meaning to his words.