Kent’s Thomas leads the fight for his ailing wife

Richard Thomas, the football player, is no stranger to the sting of battle. The former Kentwood High, University of Washington and NFL fullback often delivered the nasty blow, whether it meant picking up a crucial yard or removing a blitzing linebacker. He paid the price, made the sacrifice for others on the field.

Richard Thomas

Richard Thomas

Richard Thomas, the football player, is no stranger to the sting of battle.

The former Kentwood High, University of Washington and NFL fullback often delivered the nasty blow, whether it meant picking up a crucial yard or removing a blitzing linebacker. He paid the price, made the sacrifice for others on the field.

But Thomas, the husband and father of three, is facing a different kind of challenge these days.

And it brings on a different kind of pain.

His wife, Christie, is slowly recovering from a traumatic brain injury. She continues to fight for her life.

“To go through this, it definitely reveals your character … your faults and what you are capable of as far as compassion and kindness,” Thomas said of the emotional family ordeal. “We try to keep it extremely upbeat, keep the environment positive, full of faith and hope, mostly love. That’s what seems to make a big difference for us in the journey so far.”

The journey has had many ups and downs.

It began last July when the 39-year-old woman suffered a brain aneurysm and underwent major surgery.

“Paramedics and doctors at Harborview (Medical Center in Seattle) thought it was a miracle that she even survived the trip,” Richard said.

After showing signs of recovery, Christie agonized through a second brain hemorrhage that led to emergency surgery.

Today, Christie is on the mend again, recovering at a long-term care facility in Federal Way. She’s unable to communicate verbally but able to breathe on her own. She is showing emotion, making progress and shedding miraculous tears.

This week she has been trying to overcome a small infection with aggressive antibiotics, Richard said. They are preparing for what doctors hope will be her last surgery.

Despite the slow recovery and unpredictable nature of a Christie’s traumatic brain injury, Richard and his three kids – MaRyann, 19, Richard Lee IV (aka Blue), 16, and Peyton, 10 – remain optimistic about mom’s prognosis.

“She’s doing better every single day,” Richard said. “She’s a warrior. She had to be to be married to a Husky.”

Richard and Christie Thomas have spent more than half of their lives in love. He was the star UW football player; she was the cheerleader on the sidelines. Now, 27 years after their first meeting, they face the toughest battle of their lives.

Prior to her diagnosis, Christie and Richard were committed to the ministry and motivational speaking. Christie also helped to develop programs that brought awareness to human trafficking in the state.

It’s faith, devotion and friends who have helped the family pull through the most difficult days.

Richard has found out more about himself as he prays for his bedridden wife.

“The No. 1 thing that I discovered, even more so than ever before, is really my capacity to endure,” he said. ” … You never know what life prepares for you. … The only thing that helps you get through something like this is to stay positive, to keep an optimistic standpoint.

“Adversity really reveals who a person really is,” he said. “We all look at our life inventory. We all are going to face extreme challenges, extreme highs and lows in life. It’s really those quiet, alone times that we decide what our mission is, our vision is.”

And that means keeping the faith and making plans for a bright future with his wife.

“I hope that this story impacts other people’s lives for the good,” he said. “(In a year from now) I hope that my wife and I are holding hands on some beach and some bonfire is burning and we’re talking about our son’s football game on the weekend.”



TASTE at SAM (Seattle Art Museum) has organized a benefit dinner and silent auction to raise funds for the Thomas family. The event is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sunday, April 21 at the restaurant, 1300 First Ave., Seattle. Former UW All-American and NFL tight end Ernie Conwell and former Husky and NFL quarterback Damon Huard are scheduled to help emcee the event. Tickets are $75 per person. To register, visit

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