Inspirational and humorous

There are many books and articles that deal with people living with kidney disease. Our current review is a different genre of book, a memoir of a lady who had three kidney transplants. Angela Balcita, the recipient and the author of this book, shares her inspiring story.

Angela calls herself and her husband “the most sensational tragic comedians in the world,” finding humor in the most distressing circumstances she encounters in her life. Their mantra is not to take life seriously. Angela’s husband Charlie is the one who gave her the name “Moonface.”

The author shares how she sometimes has to go through the despair and then somehow finds the strength and courage to cope up with her illness by herself. Angela was never in perfect shape, but she sailed through her school years unharmed. But just at the beginning of her freshman year, her kidney problems surfaced, and she was diagnosed with “Glomerulonephritis.”

She shares a few instances where the differing role of being empathetic, instead of sympathetic, is highlighted. In one such instance, an intern made a joke, which to the author didn’t seem funny. She shares another incident where her mother brings holy water for her, highlighting the different ways a caregiver can provide comfort for the patient. In another one, she remembers that while she waited for surgery, all those “how brave you are cards” made her feel quite vulnerable.

Angela’s brother becomes her first donor. Angela describes how getting a new “healthy” kidney makes her feels better, both physically and mentally. But on the other hand, the emotional turmoil of the surgery has taken its toll on her brother. He isn’t his usual funny self. He becomes cranky, limits conversations with his friends, stops being his usual self. One person’s gain is other person’s loss.

The new kidney opens a path to a life with her future husband Charlie, and she made the most of it. But within few years, her new kidney started showing signs of declining function, and she is told that she would soon need dialysis. Charlie didn’t want her to start the dialysis soon, so she kept postponing her treatment plans till a time that her doctor told her: You need to start dialysis “NOW.”

Going on dialysis makes Charlie a little depressed, and Angela leaves her job too. Then one day Charlie offers her his own kidney. To make sure Angela does her best to keep this new organ healthy, he puts some dietary restrictions on her. After the operation, although Charlie kept his chin high, Angela knows of his unspoken pain. In one notable incident, when Charlie visits a doctor for treatment of his infection, the doctor talks to him as if he made a mistake by donating his kidney. When stitching him up the doctor asks if Charlie would want to do it again, to which, Charlie says “no” as he is withering in pain. There were certainly some very tense situations between the couple post surgery, as the physical and psychological impact of surgery and post-surgery complications affect their lives together.

They both decide to get married and soon begin planning for a baby too. Within a short time span after consulting with a doctor, she becomes pregnant and delivers a premature baby girl, after weathering some complications.

Even after the birth, Angela has a few more medical complications and thus she is shifted to a specialty hospital while her daughter remains in the neonatal ward of the other hospital. Her husband becomes the caregiver, managing a full-time job along with taking care of their daughter, Angela, and their pet dog.

Angela is told that her kidney is not functioning and she needs to start dialysis. She doesn’t want to resume dialysis again. Although she waits with the hope of regaining the transplant kidney function, this doesn’t happen, and she is back on dialysis again. But this also means that she can come home, to be reunited with her husband and her newborn daughter.

In the ending paragraphs of the book, Angela recounts that one of her friends, who wanted to be a live kidney donor for quite some time, comes to know of her situation and decides to donate her kidney to Angela.

This book takes us on the journey of a multi-transplant recipient, detailing the experiences and thoughts of not only the protagonist, but also of the donors of kidneys, and the impact that these generous acts have on all those involved. Donating a kidney has its psychological sequelae, which are richly illustrated in this book. The journey from starting dialysis to getting a kidney is full of emotional turmoil for everyone, whether for the patient, the donor, their caregivers or their families. This is also a reminder of how strong emotional bonds with your loved ones can help you cope better. This is a story of true heroism, of the people who donate their kidneys and also about the determination of the recipients to keep the “new” kidney working as long possible.