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Monrovia Karate Instructor Succumbs to Heart Disease

By Molly R. Okeon
Pasedena Star News 4/4/06

MONROVIA - Jeremy Tien Adams tricked what should have been his fate many times in his life, defying the odds against him.

He should have died in a plane crash at 16 months old.

He shouldn't have lived past the age of 5.

He shouldn't have been able to live a fully functional life without kidneys.

But he did.

Adams died peacefully in this sleep March 20, his heart finally failing him after 32 years of hard work.

"The doctors said his heart was just tired," said his adoptive mother, Vicki Adams of Monrovia. "His heart was that of a 90-year-old. He had renal failure for 32 years and a weakened heart because of that."

Adams was born Oct. 10, 1973, in Saigon, Vietnam. At three days old, he was abandoned. He was adopted at 16 months by Vicki Adams and her ex-husband, Leonard, who were awaiting the arrival of their new son just before Saigon fell during the Vietnam War in 1975.

Jeremy Adams was pulled off a plane headed for the United States at the last minute due to incorrect paperwork. That same plane was shot down, and all of its passengers were killed. For 18 hours, Adams' new parents thought their infant son had perished.

Adams suffered an array of health problems that had him in and out of hospitals for most of his life. At the age of two and a half, he was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease and nephrotic syndrome, meaning his kidneys had failed him. Doctors told Vicki Adams that her son would probably not live past the age of 5.

At age 6, he received a kidney transplant, which his body quickly rejected. In all, three kidneys, including the transplanted one, were removed.

Doctors used on Jeremy Adams at the age of 7 what was then a rare adult procedure: Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis. The procedure has since become the preferred method for children who need dialysis. He lived the rest of his life with no kidneys, despite one more attempted transplant, which ultimately failed.

At 21, Adams discovered his passion, karate. He found a teacher and friend in Master Tom Hould, co-owner with his wife Jody of Red Dragon Karate in Monrovia.

"He was really outgoing, bubbly," Tom Hould said. "He didn't want any special attention."

And Hould didn't plan on giving him any.

"They treated him like I did - you've got to be as normal as you can - you've lived through all this, you don't need to be treated like a baby," Vicki Adams said. "Every place else wanted to put him in a handicap class. Tom said, `This is what I expect of you,' and let him be an adult."

At no more than five feet tall and about 96 pounds, Adams didn't have brute strength on his side. What he did have was determination, a quality Hould said was much more important than size.

"Something he had was an overabundance of tenacity," Hould said, laughing.

Adams eventually became a teacher with a full-time position at the studio and a third-degree black belt. And despite having 60 to 70 surgeries in his life, Vicki Adams said, her son would rebound quickly.

"\ he had a heart attack, got out from that and was marching at the Monrovia Day Parade the next weekend," she said.

Hould landed Adams security jobs with Coastal Event Services in Arcadia, working at Warner Bros. movie premieres and after-parties for celebrities.

"The big bruisers, he worked with them for 12 years and didn't know he had any medical issues whatsoever until his funeral," Vicki Adams said. "He was gung-ho with them to fight or whatever needed to be done to subdue the crowd."

The memory those close to Adams take with them is his bright smile.

"His cheerfulness was inspiring," said Karen Amagrande, whose daughter, Jenny, 17, was a student of Adams at Red Dragon Karate. "He always had a really good sense of humor."

From Pasedena Star News. 04/04/2006 Molly R. Okeon Staff Writer for Pasedena Star News. This article is reprinted with her permission and permission of the editor.


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