As a living kidney donor, I launched this website primarily to share information about living donation. Because it was my son, Paul, who got my transplanted kidney, I also often write about chronic kidney disease and transplant recipients.
And, because I fervently believe in organ, eye, and tissue donation generally, I sometimes write, too, about the importance of signing up to be an organ donor. Now I want to tell you about a book that includes all these perspectives and more: Because of Organ Donation.
Brenda Cortez has compiled and edited this anthology of 25 moving, first-person stories by donors, recipients, and donor families (that is, family members of deceased donors). Brenda is a living-donor friend/author I’ve written about before concerning her Howl the Owl (it stands for Help Others With Love) children’s books about donation and related topics. She’s helped thousands of kids understand and cope with kidney disease and transplant in their families through her books and in visits to schools and hospitals with little Howl.
Full disclosure: when I began reading Because of Organ Donation, I think I expected that I’d mainly read the donor and recipient chapters and maybe just skim the ones about deceased donation. Instead I read it cover to cover, absorbed and touched by the powerful stories.
I naturally found old friends here from the kidney community, two of whom I’d met at the Guinness Records Living Donor Rally in Chicago in 2018: Brenda herself, who shares her own story of donating to another mom she knew slightly from her daughter’s school; and Kate Griggs, co-founder of the Guinness event, who was shunned by some friends and colleagues for donating to a stranger but still turned living donation into an avocation. (If you ever spot a living donor decal on a car, it was likely a gift from Kate, who’s mailed thousands of them gratis around the world).
The other old friend I found here is Jim Myers, a kidney transplant recipient who, years ago, became a full-time–and a half!–donation advocate (he serves on major kidney organization boards, expertly uses social media, and hosts an interview show (that Betsy and I were on).
I also encountered some of my newer Facebook donor friends, like Deb Kavanaugh (also a Guinness alum!) and Trish Phillips.
I expected to be moved by all these stories, but I didn’t know I would also learn, not only about deceased donation but even living donation (I was stunned that a donor was offered the option of taking back her kidney when her recipient died).
The stories from donor families illustrate clearly how honoring a loved one’s wish to be a donor allows grieving families to take comfort in knowing that he or she was able to dramatically change someone’s life. I was particularly touched by contributors who’d known the unimaginable pain of losing a child and their joy at connecting with their child’s recipient.
Most if not all of the contributors are obviously committed to furthering organ donation and are very active in related organizations and community activities. Because of Organ Donation will surely resonate with readers who share that commitment or have ever been touched by organ donation–but also with many others who can relate to these stories of love, grief, hope, and commitment.