Hear Ye, Hear Ye! It’s Finally Here, Yay!

It’s official–no more countdown. No need to watch for, to be patient, to pre-order. The Insider’s Guide to Living Kidney Donation, by Carol Offen and Elizabeth Crais– seven years in the making–is officially published as of today, the 23rd of September, in the year two thousand and twenty-one.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

In honor of this special day, we are offering a 25% discount if you order today or tomorrow through BookBaby Bookshop (use code PUBLICATIONDATE).

This is the book we both wish had existed when we were first contemplating donation or transplant. If you are considering either one–or know someone who is–please check it out and let us know what you think.

Launching a Book in the Time of COVID

What a kick it was for Betsy and me to celebrate the launch of our new book, The Insider’s Guide to Living Kidney Donation, with our contributors, supporters, families, and friends this weekend. A book launch COVID-style, that is. The official publication date is next week, on September 23, but after waiting roughly seven years, we couldn’t wait a minute longer.

These were the first pictures we’ve taken together since COVID and certainly since Betsy’s dual transplant in late May. It was small and low key but exciting and very gratifying to sell and sign books in person.

Now we get back to work promoting the book and spreading the word about living kidney donation. You can order the paperback or Kindle on Amazon, through BookBaby–or ask your local bookstore to order it.

Frog in Throat vs. Paper in Mouth

It’s an age-old dilemma, of course: is it better to have a frog in your throat or a paper wrapper in your mouth? I had an opportunity to test that crucial question in a recent live broadcast on Urban Health Outreach Media, Kidney Stories 2.

Picture this: I was struggling to clear my raspy throat during the on-screen interview that Betsy and I did with Jim Myers about our new book, The Insider’s Guide to Living Kidney Donation. Naturally, I first calmly reached for a sip of water. When that repeatedly failed, I frantically grabbed the nearest throat lozenge (yes, I always have one at the ready). I popped it in my mouth, and as I started to mentally heave a sigh of relief, I suddenly realized that this was the kind of throat lozenge with an interior wrapper.

So, here I am, painfully aware that I must continue to blithely suck on the wrapped lozenge. In case you’re wondering why I didn’t know about the extra wrapper–in my defense, this was my husband’s favorite lozenge, not my own favorite, Ricola Honey-Herb variety. Any lozenge in an emergency, right? (Not anymore.) Clearly, spitting it out—or, alternatively, reaching into my mouth to remove the offending paper, was not really a viable option.

I’m happy to report that even through the wrapper, the lozenge’s benefits do emerge. But at a certain point, the lozenge mostly dissolved, there was far more wrapper in my mouth than lozenge. I had no choice but to turn from the camera, and demurely (or so I like to think) use a tissue to remove the wrapper and toss it into a nearby trash basket.

Full disclosure: this was not my only broadcast mishap in recent weeks. My first Facebook Live video, describing what’s in the book, found me battling different versions of Live Producer, trying to answer questions I didn’t understand, and “waiting for camera” in vain. I tried again 15 minutes later. That didn’t work either.

A glutton for punishment, I decided to make one last attempt the next day. The good news is that I succeeded in recording an 11-minute spot that is now on my site. The bad news is that the first 27 seconds consists of my awkwardly trying to figure out if it was recording or not, punctuated by the occasional full-face nervous smile for the camera–that is, basically, the FB Live equivalent of the well-known Zoom refrain with participants of a certain age: “Can you hear me?” “Can you hear me now?”

Yes, I know there’s apparently a way to trim a video on both ends, but every time I’ve tried I failed. I decided to leave it as is. And my brief follow-up a week later, discussing FAQs from the book, about COVID and live donation, was only slightly more successful.

I like to think viewers gave me points for perseverance–doing whatever it takes to help promote our book.

For related posts and information on our new book, The Insider’s Guide to Living Kidney Donation, be sure to explore the rest of my website.

LIVE on Kidney Stories 2 Tonight!

My co-author, Betsy Crais, and I are going to be guests tonight– 8 pm EST live–on Urban Health Outreach Media’s Kidney Stories 2 with “Uncle Jim” Myers. We’ll cover a lot of ground (about our own donation and transplant experiences and, of course, “the book“) in a nearly hour-long interview. Please join us!

Jim, a kidney recipient himself, is extremely knowledgeable and very active as a kidney advocate. He was named the National Kidney Foundation’s Advocate of the Year in 2019.

Selena Gomez: Are You Vaccinated?

I trust that you are because you’ve spoken out against COVID vaccine misinformation. In the winter, I wrote about the importance of everyone getting vaccinated, particularly transplant recipients like Stevie Wonder, Selena Gomez–and my son.

In the spring, we learned that organ recipients, who must take immunosuppressants to keep their body from rejecting the gifted organ, do not get nearly as much protection (sometimes none) from the vaccine. That certainly does NOT mean transplant recipients shouldn’t get the vaccine–it’s safe, not a live virus, and any protection against COVID is worth a jab or two or three. But their vulnerability makes it even more important that the rest of us do get fully vaccinated.

Now that the Pfizer vaccine has full FDA approval, and it’s in the works for other vaccines, we can hope that more people who were hesitant will get their jab–for their own protection and for their loved ones and yours and mine.

Selena, Stevie: hearing important COVID vaccine information from you just might make the difference. Please continue to try!

For related posts and information on my new book, The Insider’s Guide to Living Kidney Donation, be sure to explore the rest of my website.

Quick (Important) Read Before Getting the 3rd Jab

When I wrote on Friday that CDC approval of a third COVID vaccine dose for organ recipients was going to happen really soon, it wasn’t hyperbole. It actually happened that very afternoon (Friday August 13)! My family, like so many other donor/recipient families, was elated. Our first impulse was “quick, get thee to a pharmacy!”

Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, and after reading an important article on “6 Things to Know,” my son took the precaution of contacting his medical providers. Once he got the green light, he called his pharmacy to see if they were offering the Pfizer shot, which was what he received for the first two. And yesterday, barely 24 hours after CDC approval, he happily received the third dose! Fingers crossed.

Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

So, if you or someone you know is immuno-compromised and ready to run to the nearest pharmacy for a jab, slow down just a bit–you’ve waited this long, you can wait a little longer. Take a slow deep breath, contact your transplant team, and read that short article first.

Here’s hoping!

For related posts and information on my new book, The Insider’s Guide to Living Kidney Donation, be sure to explore the rest of my website.

Great News for Organ Recipients!

I’ve never done this before, but this is in fact BREAKING NEWS:

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

In case you haven’t seen the headlines: the Food and Drug Administration has just approved a third COVID-19 shot (Pfizer and Moderna) for organ transplant recipients! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to give its own approval very soon—as in, maybe today (August 13). That paves the way for physicians to hurry up and order shots for immuno-compromised folks, like my son, who are fully vaccinated but still not protected. Granted, there’s still no guarantee that even a third shot will provide adequate protection against the virus for some people with weakened immune systems, but study results are encouraging. We can hope.

Our Living Kidney Donation Book Is Finally Here!

Well, would you look at what the UPS truck just brought: advance copies of “the book”! At long last, The Insider’s Guide to Living Kidney Donation is a reality!

Here are a few interesting book-related stats for you trivia buffs (most of them not the kind of stats that WordPress will show in a widget):

Number of pages: 258

Months in production: 5

Months from date Betsy and I sent manuscript to copy editor until bound books: 7 months

Elapsed time from conception to bound books: 83 months (yup, you read that right: 6 years, 11 months)

Number of drafts: I haven’t a clue but probably upwards of 10

Meetings with Betsy: hundreds

Number of large notebooks filled with handwritten meeting notes: 2.5

Number of sleepless nights: far too many to count

Feeling of holding it in our hands at last: priceless

You can pre-order the paperback or Kindle version on Amazon or purchase now here.

Who Are We (Living Donors)?

Several months ago, I wrote here about co-writing a Patients’ Foreword for a medical textbook, Living Kidney Donation: Best Practices in Evaluation, Care and Follow-up. The following excerpt from the foreword, addressing transplant professionals, describes us living donors simply and honestly:

Who are we? We’re loved ones: mothers and fathers, wives and husbands and partners, daughters and sons, sisters and brothers. We’re also caring friends, neighbors, and members of your community. And some of us are just average, empathetic people who simply saw a need—even in someone we don’t know—and wanted to help.

What we’re not are saints, super-heroes, or natural risk takers. Thanks for the praise, but that’s not what it’s all about. Please don’t perpetuate the idea that someone needs to be superhuman to step up to save a life by undergoing a comparatively low-risk surgery. That attitude may intimidate some potential living donors.

Bravery has little to do with it. Personally, I’m a wimp: I faint at flu shots. But when my adult son’s kidneys were failing, and I was the only healthy family member with a compatible blood type to come forward for donor evaluation, I ultimately donated to him in 2006 (paired donation was in its infancy in those days). My son didn’t have any risk factors for kidney disease, and we had no family history; all he had was a strep infection that caused his IgA nephropathy. We want people to understand that what happened to our families can happen to any family. . . .

Photo by Sam Lion on Pexels.com

A Third Shot Could Be the Charm

We suspected—and, of course, feared–that my kidney recipient son’s two COVID vaccine doses hadn’t worked, as is the case for most immuno-compromised individuals. Then he had an anti-spike test, which specifically shows whether a person has developed antibodies in response to a COVID vaccine. His results were negative: he had no antibodies.

So we’ve been watching with even greater interest for news of developments on protections not only for him and other organ recipients–but for all immuno-compromised individuals, such as people with cancer or HIV.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

A small, recent study of transplant recipients in France found that though only 4% of the participants had some level of antibodies four weeks after one shot of a (two-dose) COVID vaccine, 40% had antibodies after the second shot, and 68% after a third shot. For those who had no antibodies weeks after the second dose, such as in my son’s situation, 44% did after a third dose. That was encouraging news.

In fact, both France and Israel have started offering an extra shot to organ recipients and anyone with a weakened immune system. I was excited to learn that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is seriously considering doing the same here in the United States. They may be waiting for more studies before taking that step. The transplant community and the public need to urge the federal government to recognize the importance of these additional shots for organ recipients and other vulnerable individuals.

In the meantime, the CDC has just recommended that even fully vaccinated people go back to wearing masks indoors in some public spaces because of the delta variant’s increased potential to spread the virus. Makes sense to me. Wearing a mask isn’t the worst thing in the world.

For more information on this and related subjects (and to learn more about my upcoming book, The Insider’s Guide to Living Kidney Donation), please explore the blog archives and the rest of my website at kidneydonorhelp.com