RIRIE — The life of an up-and-coming bull rider was cut short this month after a sudden and devastating illness.
Earlier this month, 18-year-old Blake Thueson of Ririe was at a high point in his life, competing in the 2022 IMBA World Finals in Reno, Nevada. He had a passion for the sport and performed well in the competition.
But while competing, he started to feel sick — an illness that quickly spiraled and ultimately led to his death on Nov. 19.
He’s remembered fondly by his friends and family for all his many achievements.
“He was excelling in bull riding. He was winning a lot and doing so well,” said Jodi Thueson, Blake’s stepmom.
Blake got involved with the rodeo scene when he was eight years old. His dad, Todd, helped train him. Blake lived parts of his life in Utah, spending time with his biological mom and in Idaho.
Blake’s dream was to become a professional bull rider. He was going to get his professional rodeo card next year.
“He wanted to become an NFR World Champion. That was his goal and he was on his way to succeed that. So many people told him that he would be on TV and win a world title because he’s the real deal—that’s what everybody would say,” said Todd.
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 that have only met Blake once. Everybody loved him. So thoughtful and so respectful,” Jodi said. “He always shook your hand and introduced himself.”
It’s still surreal for Todd and Jodi that Blake is gone because it all happened so quickly.
During the IMBA World Finals in Reno, Blake completed three rides, but before the fourth he decided to opt out.
“He said, ‘Dad, I don’t know if I can ride. I don’t feel good,'” Todd recalls. “Coming from him, he had to be extremely sick because he rode 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 Nov. 14. Doctors told Jodi that Blake needed to go to the emergency room.
Blake was then taken to Idaho Falls Community Hospital. He was having liver trouble, and his condition worsened. On Wednesday, Nov. 16, he was airlifted to the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City.
“They (medical staff) ran every test that you could imagine for everything because everyone wasn’t sure what was wrong. They did MRIs on his entire 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 Nov. 16, Blake was put on full life support.
By Friday, Nov. 18, tests came back. Todd and Jodi were told that Blake had Mono-Epstein–Barr virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Epstein–Barr virus symptoms include fatigue, fever, inflamed throat, swollen liver, swollen lymph nodes in the neck and a rash.
Later in the day, another test revealed 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 happens in infants and young children. It may also happen in adults. In adults, many different conditions, including infections and cancer, can cause HLH.
Todd said it was a roller coaster.
“They did some procedures to help him…It was minute to minute if he was going to live or not. So we would get good news, and then 20 minutes later, we’d get bad news that things aren’t working again, and so they would try something else,” Todd explained.
On Friday night, the medical staff told Todd and Jodi that it would be a tough night. They had done about everything they could do to keep Blake alive.
The next day, on Nov. 19, Blake passed away. Todd said he is very grateful for the medical staff trying to help his son.
“I have never been in such an amazing hospital in my entire life. The staff, the nurses, the doctors would explain every little thing that they were doing to him. Continually. There was always two nurses with him 24/7,” Todd said. “They would sing to him, talk to him, and they would play his favorite music.”
Family members have set up a GoFundMe page to help the Thueson family with medical costs. There is a goal of $10,000. Click here for more information.
Blake will be missed by his parents and remembered always. Click here to read his obituary.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my son for all the achievements he’s done in his life and just the person he is,” Todd said.