Monday, December 11, 2017

Top Ten Things I Wish I'd Known Before Donating a Kidney

Photo Credit: Perfect Strangers
Seven years ago I walked down a hospital corridor thinking I was about to change someone's life. I had no idea then just how much it would change my own. By the time I was waking up back in my room, my former left kidney was already being transplanted into a stranger's body. I assumed the surgery would be  the end of my donation journey. Turns out it was only the beginning.

Since that day, I've written a memoir, was featured in a documentary, have traveled the US speaking about living donation, and became a moderator of Facebook support groups for over 20,000 kidney donors, recipients and their families. The number one question I'm asked is why? which I attempted to answer in this post and in my book, LOST IN TRANSPLANTATION. The second most common question I get asked is, "What did you wish you'd known before donating?" The answer is long, so I made it into a Top Ten list.

1. No matter how many times you try to explain, people won't understand why you'd give a kidney to someone you don't know. Or even someone you DO.


When I try to explain why I donated a kidney I get some crazy looks. My best answer is simply because I became aware of a need and knew I had the good health and the means to help fill that need. Yes, I understood the risks. But after being on the receiving end of a benevolent ripple of goodness many times myself, I wanted to throw in my own pebble.

2. Be prepared for things that might go wrong, physically and emotionally.


Stuff happens. In my case, my friend who planned to drive me to the hospital had car trouble. Then my own car overheated on the way to the surgery center, so my ex-husband ended up driving me  all the way to San Francisco! Be sure to have a back-up,and a back-up to the back up. 

Every surgery entails risks, and it's paramount that you're fully informed of possible complications.  Beyond the physical, you need to consider how you'll feel if your recipient's body rejects your kidney, or worse, he or she dies. Once that organ is out of your body, it's no longer yours. Bless it, bless your recipient and their family, and bless yourself. You did a good thing and no matter the outcome, most certainly inspired others along the way.

3. People will want to help. Let them.


I think most donors are the type of people who are better at helping than accepting help. This is not the time to be a superhero. I wish I'd done a better job of asking friends to make meals or give me rides. I remain very grateful to those who popped in to bring me treats, wash my hair, or just check in.

4. The caffeine headache is worse than the incision pain.


A note to coffee drinkers; I ended up with a whopper of a headache because they wouldn't let me have my drug of choice: caffeine. You also might suffer from gas pain in your shoulders due to the surgeon inflating your abdomen to work around your internal organs. Walking helps to, erm, expel the errant gas bubbles. (Confession: I had someone sneak me a latte on Day Three and shazam! The headache disappeared.)


5. Yoga pants, Wet Wipes and Milk of Magnesia will be your new best friends.


Comfy clothes are best post-surgery, including a button-up shirt so you don't have to lift your arms. Baby wipes are a godsend for a quick "bath" until you can take a proper shower. Also, you won't be able to poop for like three days. God bless whoever invented Milk of Mag. You saved me.

6. You Must Give yourself time to heal.


I went back to work at our busy spa three weeks after surgery. I probably should have waited another week at least. You'll tire easily. You might be weepy. Be gentle with yourself. It can take six months to the affects of anesthesia to fully leave your body. Most transplant centers will follow you for a year after donation but you'll be required to monitor your own health after that. (I continue to advocate for lifetime Medicare benefits for living donors, something that we can all probably agree on.) 

Bonus: I lost 30 pounds after donating; they just fell off. I call that instant karma! :)

7. You will meet some incredible people.


I had no idea my personal community would grow to include thousands--yes thousands--of new friends and acquaintances who were eager to celebrate my story and share their own. I've heard from readers as far away as Africa, and Skyped into Q&A sessions with kidney groups on the opposite coast. I've met doctors, nurses, dialysis techs, transplant coordinators, recipients, donors, and people who are still waiting for a transplant that have made me swell with admiration for their determination and courage. My world has expanded one-hundred fold with gratitude for every single person I've "met" as a result of donating. You will go forward from your donation with a greater sense of purpose and deeper meaning in your life. 

8. You will wish you could grow another kidney to give away.


I figured I'd be "one and done" as they say, but once I healed up all I could think about were the 120,000 people still on that waiting list. I became a walking, talking billboard for living donation, speaking to anyone who'd stand still long enough to hear (or read) my story. In the time it took me to finish this post, fifteen people have died in the US alone because they didn't receive a life-saving organ in time. Think about that.


9. You will reject the word "hero."


Because you've seen the real heroes, the people who get up every single day to spend another 4-6 hours on dialysis, and their exhausted families and caretakers. Donating a kidney is a big deal, yes, but you will likely go on and live a normal life. Kidney disease is forever. Even those fortunate enough to receive a transplant will take a ton of daily medications and live with the ongoing fear of organ rejection or other complications.


10. Life with one kidney is pretty similar to life with two kidneys, but it will never be the same. 


And for that, you will be forever grateful

To celebrate the seventh anniversary of my kidney's adventure in a new body, I'm giving away three copies of my memoir on Goodreads. Good luck to everyone! 


Beautifully rendered story of triumphant generosity
"Part memoir, part philosophy, part how-to guide for the altruistic organ donor -- it's an unconventional read by an unconventional woman. Ellie's story is compelling and heartfelt -- and her quirky humor, pink-tipped pigtails and transparent love light up every page. I read it in two sittings and emerged feeling cleansed, inspired and grateful. Ellie describes herself as agnostic, but I couldn't help hearing the words of Jesus at the Last Supper: This is my body, given for you...." ~~Kathleen Adams, Author & Founder/Director of Center for Journal Therapy 

Beautifully written...hugely compelling page-turner. Edwards skillfully weaves a tale proving that fact is often stranger than fiction. Again and again Edwards' skill as a writer demonstrates what a gifted wordsmith can do with a nearly-unbelievable series of real life events. She is imminently vulnerable and refreshingly relatable, which makes her story that much more readable--and the be the change that Edwards was after, may very well be what happens to the reader after finishing her book." Tom Franciskovich, Publisher; SLOLIFE Magazine

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Magical Thinking

intuition, clairvoyance, psychic
Have you ever thought about someone and within minutes you hear from them and you're immediately convinced  your thoughts triggered the contact? Or maybe you have a ritual that's often worked for you, and if you skip it, you believe the outcome will surely be jinxed. According to an article in Scientific American, magical thinking is the belief that "an object, action or circumstance not logically related to a course of events can influence its outcome." Basically, they're talking about superstition, things like kissing the dice, knocking on wood and avoiding black cats. Or believing you somehow caused something to happen (or not happen) just by thinking about it.

Here's mine. (Don't laugh.) I'm not a religious person, but every time I fly I say these words in my head as we lift off the runway: Angels, angels all around, easy up and gently down. I picture all my departed loved ones--parents and grandparents, my sister Anita, my beloved Aunt Ruth--surrounding the plane and protecting everyone in it. Silly, right? But I do it. Every. Single. Time. Okay go ahead and laugh. But I know some of you are going to steal it, and that's okay too.

Grace, my  protagonist in THIS I KNOW is clairvoyant, something she calls the Knowing. She senses things that are about to happen and can sometimes read the past. Grace describes her psychic abilities like this:

I know things, such as when the telephone’s going to ring. Sometimes I hear and see things, too. Like the red bulge inside the back of Hope’s head that no one else sees or the lilies under the snow that I can smell long before they bloom. And that I really do hear my brother’s voice. We talk to each other all the time.

Young Grace doesn't entirely understand her gift and after angrily wishing harm upon someone, feels responsible for anything bad that might happen to that person. It isn't until she matures and her gift deepens that she comes to understand that knowing things and making them happen are  not the same. One is intuition, the other is merely superstition. One belief is powerful, the other potentially robs us of our power. 

What about you? Do you believe in divine (or mortal) synchronicity? Do you have any odd or unique rituals that bring you comfort or assurance? 

~~~~~

My debut novel, THIS I KNOW, releases April 24, 2018. Follow me on Good Reads to be updated about future giveaways and blog posts. You can also pre-order my book on Amazon or from you local bookstore.



"A heartfelt and beautifully crafted debut about an eleven-year-old girl struggling to find her place in the world. THIS I KNOW shines, thanks to narrator Grace, one of the most authentic child characters I've come across in a long time. Don't miss this one." ~~Lesley Kagen, New York Times bestselling author of THE MUTUAL ADMIRATION SOCIETY.



Sunday, November 26, 2017

Southern Comfort

I've always felt a little sorry for friends who grew up as an only child. Raised in a large family, I was rarely more than an arm's length from my nearest sibling. I also enjoyed a built-in gaggle of playmates through my dad's church. But what I didn't have, and envied in others, were close aunts and uncles. My mother had one sister who we saw on rare occasions. My dad's family lived in Missouri.

I remember the first time I met my Aunt Ruth, who came to visit when my mom was pregnant with my brother. She smiled a lot and spoke real slow in her honey-like southern accent. When she called me sweet pea, I thought I'd melt on the spot. Aunt Ruth was married to my Uncle Cecil,  a petite, white-haired man who played the harmonica and guitar at the same time. They were devoutly religious yet loving and playful. When Aunt Ruth hugged you, it was like her heart soaked up all your troubles and replaced them with giggles. My Midwestern people are known for being kind. But there's a deep-down warmth to Southern women that feels rooted in utter affection.

I'll admit to channeling a bit of my Aunt Ruth when I drew my protagonist's beloved Aunt Pearl. Young Grace's family is in turmoil when Rev. Carter's sister travels from Mississippi to lend a hand. From the moment Aunt Pearl steps off the bus in her flowered slippers, Grace finally feels as though she has a confidant, an adult who is on her side for once.

Aunt Pearl is round like Daddy but not much taller than me. She rocks back and forth when she walks, which makes her slippers lean to the outside. She takes the black rubbered stairs one at a time, saying, “Lordy, Lordy,” as if it’ll take a miracle to get to the bottom step. As soon as she hits the sidewalk she looks at me and grins, her front gold tooth sparkling like a little star. 

“Come here, shoog,” she says, and opens her arms. 


What about you? Did you have a favorite aunt or uncle, a mentor who stood up for you and who honored your individuality? Drop your answer in the comments or just to say hi. :)


~~~~~


My debut novel, THIS I KNOW, releases April 24, 2018. Follow me on Good Reads to be updated about future giveaways and blog posts. You can also pre-order my book on Amazon or from you local bookstore.



"A heartfelt and beautifully crafted debut about an eleven-year-old girl struggling to find her place in the world. THIS I KNOW shines, thanks to narrator Grace, one of the most authentic child characters I've come across in a long time. Don't miss this one."  Lesley Kagen, New York Times bestselling author of THE MUTUAL ADMIRATION SOCIETY.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

A Room of One's Own

I live in a tiny cottage with my beau but thankfully it came with an extra bathroom. Okay, bathroom is a generous term for the toilet that sits in the basement laundry area with no door, completely exposed. Even so, anyone who grew up in a large family with a single bathroom will relate to the benefit of having more than one commode.

Such was the case for the first twelve years of my life, when my family lived in a two-story parsonage. The house boasted five bedrooms, perhaps because preachers tend to fill a couple pews with their own children. Yet unbelievably, there was just a single bathroom to share between seven kids and two adults. Think about that for a minute. Nine people, one bathroom. I understand this is  not uncommon in third-world countries but this was America. Rural America, but still...

So you can imagine how convenient it must have been to live across the street from our little church, one whose doors were never locked and that contained a bathroom with not one, but TWO stalls. My five sisters and I often pee-pee danced across the street when the bathroom was in use by one of our siblings or, God forbid, my dad. To him, it was not just a bathroom; it was his study, his escape from seven females and our baby brother. When nature called my dad, it was as if God himself had called him to the ministry of elimination. He'd spend hours in there "studying," his claim backed up by the stacks of reference books, concordance, and a several versions of the Bible. And yes, some of them had toilet paper squares marking the pages. 

People often ask if THIS I KNOW is autobiographical. The answer is yes and no. The story is fiction, but did I harvest snippets from my fertile childhood growing up as a preacher's kid? Absolutely. Including this little gem:

By the time I get back from town, Daddy’s in the bathroom doing some last-minute cramming for his sermon tomorrow. It’s one of his favorite places to think. Unfortunately, if one of us needs to pee we have to walk over to the church because he’s not coming out anytime soon. Even if he did, nobody would want to go in right after Daddy’s been in there. I fast-walk across the street, rushing past the church janitor and into the girls’ bathroom. Somebody has scratched "Jesus Loves You" into the back of the bathroom door. I wonder if whoever wrote it considered whether Jesus would like her vandalizing His holy house.

 Sorry, Dad, but that was too good not to steal. 

~~~~~~~
If you're reading this on Sunday morning (12-19-17) there's still time to enter a giveaway for a $20 Target Gift Card just by dropping a comment on the thread below this photo on my Facebook Author Page:


Sunday, November 12, 2017

When Things Fall Apart


"I am terrified by this dark thing that sleeps inside me." --Sylvia Plath

We've all done it; pasted on a happy face to cover our fear, our sadness, our fragility. Nobody wants to be a Debbie Downer and drag others down with them, right? So we stuff our vulnerable selves deep into our core and pull out a mask bearing an appropriately put-together shell. One that appears happy and confident. But on the inside, things are still falling apart.

Growing up in the Midwest I learned from an early age that you need to "buck up" or " "grin and bear it" when times get tough. We were taught to smile through our pain or discomfort because appearances mattered more than feelings. I was a sensitive child and cried easily so I heard it a lot. Of course, I carried this idea of stuffing your feelings well into my adulthood, until that point when I realized that a river of repressed emotions will eventually breach the damn. This flood of truth might manifest as anger or addiction or even suicide if not treated.  

Such is the case for Isabelle Carter, wife of the Rev. Henry Carter, who suffers from a combination of postpartum depression and unfulfilled desires. She wanted to be a famous gospel singer. What she got instead was life as a rural minister's wife and mother to five daughters, one of whom reminds her of long-forgotten self.

Daddy brought Mama back home two days ago. She doesn’t seem very rested if you ask me. She still naps a lot and when she is up and around she bumps into the walls. Joy won’t let Mama hold the baby unless she’s sitting down. Mama reminds me of a Dilly Bar from the Dairy Queen, like there’s only a thin shell covering what’s melting inside.

In this scene from THIS I KNOW, Mama has just come from a place where she was sent to "rest" but returns home looking anything but recovered. I wanted to underscore the disconnect that people (mostly women) from that era suffered. Faces disguised with pleasant, Stepford-like eeriness. These women were often over-prescribed "nerve pills" to calm them or "diet pills" to give them energy. Many self-medicated with alcohol and other forms of escapism. Or as in Mrs. Carter's case, told to pray away the malaise when what she most needed was simply to be allowed to feel what she was feeling. In retrospect, it's no wonder we're currently struggling with an opioid addiction epidemic crisis. People want to feel good and will do anything to make the pain go away.

I enjoy what most friends and acquaintances would describe as a happy disposition. But where there is light, there is shadow. For several years I endured depression that might have been postpartum or might have been circumstantial due to life events. Or maybe it was just good old-fashioned clinical depression. What I remember most was feeling terribly ashamed, that old tape of "get over yourself" looping endlessly in my head. Eventually I sought help, got counseling, and was able to talk openly about my feelings as I surfed the waves of melancholy and despair. 

During that time I learned that what depressed people most need is acceptance and support. Things young Grace strives to give her mama as the reverend's wife struggles to find her way back to happiness  and contentment. In THIS I KNOW, Grace's way of helping happens to involve using her uncanny abilities to break through the membrane of consciousness to reach her sullen mother. Because sometimes a little magic is the best medicine.

~~~~~


Someone, maybe you, is reading these words and recognizes yourself in them. Talk to somebody

~~~



My debut novel, THIS I KNOW, releases April 24 2018. I'd be honored if you'd add it to your wish-list on Good Reads. and thrilled if you recommend it to your friends. You can also pre-order the book on Amazon or from you local bookstore.




In this outstanding debut, Eldonna Edwards has created an enchanting, loveable narrator by the name Grace Carter, who shares all she sees about her world and beyond.  Rendered in a voice at once singular and exquisite and with an old soul sense of wisdom, I was captivated by this story of a girl and her unique gift, her love of family, the pain of loss, the sting of indifference, and the simple joy of acceptance, but most of all by Grace, and her purity of heart. --Donna Everhart, best-selling author of THE EDUCATION OF DIXIE DUPREE and  THE ROAD TO BITTERSWEET.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Big Daddy

Photo Credit: Wiki Commons
Remember when you were a kid and adults seemed so big, so powerful, so impossibly in charge of EVERYTHING? They controlled what you ate, when you went to bed and the consequences of any misdeeds. It was frustrating wasn't it? Especially when you were innocent but got blamed because more often than not, you were the mischievous kid at the center of those misdeeds. 

My father was loving but strict. As a preacher, he held a higher position than most of my friends' dads. We might have been on the low end of the economic barometer, but we had righteousness on our side and that allowed us other benefits. Clergy discounts. Chore-free Sundays. Memorized Scripture to back-up and win most arguments. Because really, who wants to take a side against the Almighty?

In writing THIS I KNOW I tried to convey that sense of impotence in children compared to powerful adults, especially parents. In the following scene, Grace nervously waits while her mama explains a situation that could make her either a hero or a villain in her father's eyes:

"Daddy spends a long time in the bedroom with Mama before supper. I picture him sitting on the bed, the way it sinks when he lowers himself onto it. Daddy tends to leave a dent in soft things. Not just because he’s big, but because he means to. Everything about him is heavy, from his voice to the way his foot lands on the floor. Sometimes just in the way he looks at you."

As a child, that's pretty much how I viewed my dad. He was the boss. And he was the pastor. Who was I to challenge him?

And then one day, tragedy struck and for the first time in my life, I saw him crying. Dad's don't cry, I thought. Kids cry. Sometimes mothers. But not your dad. And especially not Pastor Edwards. Until he does. He appeared disheveled that day, like someone who'd slept several nights in their clothes. It was the first time I recognized that he wasn't merely those roles of father and minister, he was a human being who, in that moment, felt helpless and not in control of anyone or anything.

It was a rare moment, but one I never forgot. So in creating the fictional Reverend Carter, I made the character big--much bigger physically than my own dad. I made him insufferably controlling and close-minded. But somewhere deep inside I managed to insert a tiny wedge of vulnerability: a woman that he adores and without whom he feels unlovable. And then I wrenched her from his assured grasp. I'd like to say I did it to expose his true self, letting his house of cards crumble around him so that he's faced with difficult choices. But the truth is, I'm still that same mischievous kid who enjoys stirring up shit when she gets the chance. Fortunately as a writer, I get lots of chances.

~~~~~

My debut novel, THIS I KNOW, releases April 24 2018. I'd be honored if you added it to your wish-list on Good Reads. You can also pre-order the book on Amazon or from you local bookstore.






In this outstanding debut, Eldonna Edwards has created an enchanting, loveable narrator by the name Grace Carter, who shares all she sees about her world and beyond.  Rendered in a voice at once singular and exquisite and with an old soul sense of wisdom, I was captivated by this story of a girl and her unique gift, her love of family, the pain of loss, the sting of indifference, and the simple joy of acceptance, but most of all by Grace, and her purity of heart. --Donna Everhart, best-selling author of THE EDUCATION OF DIXIE DUPREE and  THE ROAD TO BITTERSWEET.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Good Grief

I sometimes imagine we have all these invisible cords leading to those we love. Even when we aren't close physically, our loved ones exist on the other end of those cords and all you have to do is give a little tug, feel the resistance and be assured of their constant connection to you. Life and love flow beautifully between the two ends. When we lose someone close to us that cord loses its resistance, comes to you freely. You worry the frayed edges knowing it will take time to adjust to a world without this particular human in it. 

Grief is a gift. It is an affirmation of our loved one's presence in our lives. In THIS I KNOW, Grace's beloved Aunt Pearl tries to explain this to my young protagonist after she experiences the loss of a dear friend:


"Sorrow is the good Lord's toll for love," she says, shaking her head. I know by the way she says it that Aunt Pearl has paid a great debt for the generosity of her big heart.

I wanted to convey that earned elder wisdom, how opening your heart to love also means subjecting it to possible pain. And that by becoming vulnerable, we more fully appreciate that the price is more than compensated by the depth of that love. The bigger the joy the greater the sorrow. The deeper the love, the higher the toll. That's just the way it works. 

Although we're sometimes glad for the end of suffering, when a loved one dies it often feels as if someone has turned off the sun and the world is suddenly darker and colder. Every inch of you feels raw, tender, fragile. To those of you currently reeling from loss, I know there are no right words. We can only listen and offer comfort. Perhaps the best we can do is to hold up a mirror in hopes that you'll recognize your loved one in every tear, every fold of your heart, and know that you still carry them you.

This post is dedicated to my dear friend Anna Banana Unkovich, who left this world on August 7th. I miss you every day.




~~~~~

My debut novel, THIS I KNOW, releases April 24 2018. I'd be honored if you added it to your wish-list on Good Reads. You can also pre-order the book on Amazon or from you local bookstore.




"Set in a small Midwest town in the late 1960s and helmed by an unforgettable young protagonist—compassionate, uncannily wise Grace—This I Know is a luminous coming-of-age story from an astonishing new voice."