18-year-old bull rider dies of rare disease. Family is proud of his achievements.

By Andrea Olson, EastIdahoNews.com

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RIRIE, Idaho (eastidahonews.com) — An up-and-coming bull rider’s life was cut short this month after a sudden and devastating illness.

Earlier this month, 18-year-old Blake Thueson from Ririe was at a high point in his life when he competed in the 2022 IMBA World Finals in Reno, Nevada. He had a passion for the sport and performed well in the competition.

But as he competed, he began to feel ill — an illness that quickly spiraled and eventually led to his death on November 19.

He is fondly remembered by his friends and family for all his many achievements.

“He excelled in bull riding. He won a lot and did so well,” said Jodi Thueson, Blake’s stepmother.

Blake got involved in the rodeo scene when he was eight years old. His father, Todd, helped train him. Blake lived part of his life in Utah, where he spent time with his birth mother and in Idaho.

Blake’s dream was to become a professional bull rider. Next year he would get his professional rodeo card.

“He wanted to be NFR world champion. That was his goal and he was on his way to achieving it. So many people told him he was going to get on TV and win a world title because he’s the real deal — anyone would say that,” Todd said.

Besides bull riding, Blake loved the outdoors. He would hunt, fish, ride horses, dirt bike and camp. He was known for helping others.

“Todd and I were always getting comments from other people who have only met Blake once. Everyone loved him. So thoughtful and so respectful,” Jodi said. “He always shook your hand and introduced himself.”

It’s still surreal to Todd and Jodi that Blake is gone because it all happened so fast.

At the IMBA World Finals in Reno, Blake completed three rides, but decided to opt out of the fourth.

“He said, ‘Dad, I don’t know if I can drive. I don’t feel well,” Todd recalled. “Coming from him he must have been extremely sick because he was riding bulls with torn muscles and bruised ribs.”

When Blake got back to Idaho, Jodi decided she would take him to Community Care in Rigby on November 14. Doctors told Jodi that Blake needed to go to the emergency room.

Blake was then taken to Idaho Falls Community Hospital. He had liver problems and his condition worsened. On Wednesday, November 16, he was airlifted to the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City.

“They (medical staff) ran every test you could think of for everything because everyone wasn’t sure what was going on. They did MRIs on his whole body and CAT scans. They did so many tests and we just kept waiting. Some of them wouldn’t come back for four to five days,” Todd said.

By the end of the day, on November 16, Blake was on full life support.

On Friday, November 18, the tests returned. Todd and Jodi were told that Blake had the Mono-Epstein-Barr virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of the Epstein-Barr virus include fatigue, fever, strep throat, swollen liver, swollen lymph nodes in the neck and skin rash.

Later in the day, another test revealed that Blake had HLH disease.

“It’s pretty rare and kills your organs,” Todd said.

Todd said it was the first time he had heard of HLH disease. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) is a rare disease that usually occurs in infants and young children. It can also occur in adults. In adults, many different conditions, including infections and cancer, can cause HLH.

Todd said it was a rollercoaster.

“They performed some procedures to help him… It was minute by minute whether he would survive or not. So we got good news and 20 minutes later we got bad news that it stopped working, so they tried something else,” Todd explained.

Friday night, the medical staff told Todd and Jodi it was going to be a rough night. They had done everything they could to keep Blake alive.

The next day, on November 19, Blake died. Todd said he is very thankful for the medical staff who are trying to help his son.

“I’ve never been to such a great hospital in all my life. The staff, the nurses, the doctors explained to him everything they were doing. Constantly. There were always two nurses with him, 24/7, said Todd. “They sang to him, talked to him, and played his favorite music.”

Family members have set up a GoFundMe page to help the Thueson family with medical expenses. There is a goal of $10,000. Click here for more information.

Blake will be missed by his parents and always remembered. Click here to read his obituary.

“I couldn’t be more proud of my son for all the accomplishments he’s accomplished in his life and just being the person he is,” Todd said.

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