Saturday, October 20, 2018

Do You Want a Piece of Me???

Many people think librarians get to read a lot.  Hardly! Add in having five kids at home, and much of my reading time happens sitting in my car in slow drive-through lines.

I'm sure many people (read: Moms) are in the same position, not having nearly enough time to read, uninterrupted. Can you imagine having a few days to just lie in bed and read? Bliss! I'd give my left kidney for that!

Or my right. Whichever. Which is how I found myself, a little while back, spending two days with some very nice people at UNM Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

I have registered for things such as bone marrow donation over the year, but I have never been contacted. When I came across information about the National Kidney Registry, I went online and filled out the forms, thinking it would probably be the same.

I was pleasantly surprised when I soon got an e-mail asking if I would be willing to take some initial tests. They sent me a urine collection kit, I peed in a bucket for a day, I dropped it off at a nearby lab and they took some blood - took about ten minutes of my time.

About a week later, I got a call at work from a delightful woman named Ana Maria at UNM in Albuquerque. She asked if I would be willing to drive up some day for further testing. She was more than willing to work around my schedule, and since I am off every other Friday, it was easy to pick a date that worked for everyone. She and Mila, another woman I quickly became acquainted with, were wonderful about answering any questions I had, and even those I didn't. They helped arrange for lodging, and sent me a detailed schedule, complete with maps and names and directions, both by e-mail and by snail mail.

What struck me most about that first conversation was how surprised she seemed to be, to be talking with someone who was willing to be a living donor, and who wasn't a friend or relative of a kidney patient. That made me sad. Yes, it's a bit more than just donating blood, but you are talking about saving a life! Why don't more people at least take the first steps and look into it?!

Seriously, I have always tried to teach my kids to help people whenever they can. Heck, it's the second thing written on our stairs. Sometimes that means bringing someone a meal. Sometimes it can mean something bigger.

So, back to my visit. I ended up taking one day off work and went up Thursday, so that the psychiatrist wouldn't have to come in on his day off. Yes, they want to make sure you aren't completely crazy. I guess my brand of partially nuts was deemed acceptable (I did get him to actually use the term 'batshit crazy' by the end of our session, although he refused to say it described me.) Basically, he asked a little about my life, made sure I had thought things through, had decent coping skills and a support system, etc. He went over some of the physical and psychological risks, which everyone does at every single step of the way - they want you to be SURE, and well-informed. He told me several times to ask as many questions as I could think of, of anyone I talked to.

I got a child-free night in a hotel room, long enough to confirm that I have not missed a single thing on TV in the past ten years, write a few book reviews for Cybils, and get 10 months of photographs in order in an album.

Friday was the busy day. I had a fasting blood test at 7, so I gazed longingly at the free breakfast being enjoyed by balloon crews (Balloon Fiesta weekend in Albuquerque!) before leaving the hotel. I was first in line when the lab opened, which was good because they were short-staffed and almost immediately running behind. Two pokes I didn't feel, 14 vials of blood, and a fill-this-cup-please, then I finally got to go meet Mila and Ana Maria, the living donor advocates at UNM. They are just as sweet in person as they are on the phone! Another very nice woman was there hoping to donate to someone she knew, so we went through the initial class together, taught by Mila.

Again, they want to make sure you are VERY well informed, about benefits and risks. Mila provided UNM's stats, which are better than national averages, and either answered our questions or told us who to ask along the way. Throughout the rest of the day, people would randomly ask us what we had learned about the risks, down to percentages - they want to be SURE you are sure, and you are not going into anything blindly. (There is a .03% chance I could die on the table. Getting back on I-25 was riskier.)

We both went down to get our EKGs, which took approximately three minutes each - no exaggeration. Then we took turns with the dietician Christine and Ana Maria. The dietician seemed happy with everything but my two sodas a day habit. I promised to TRY to drink more water, and she had to be content with that. Ana Maria went over more of what to expect, again making sure I had plans and support in place during my recovery.

Next up was a chest x-ray - I may actually learn my way around UNM by the end of all this! - about ten minutes, you just have to take bra and jewelry off and stand in a couple different positions. From there I drove around the corner to a different buildings (about 5 minutes, counting stop light) for my CT Scan. That took a little longer, and was...interesting. Heads up: the contrast dye will make you think you peed your pants. You didn't. Probably. But the bed part was so soft and comfortable, I would have happily ridden back and forth for an hour, taking deep breaths and holding them for the disembodied voice (which also belonged to a very nice lady. Seriously, kudos to UNM for having such amazing, friendly staff all over!)

Back to the main hospital for a visit with the nephrologist, Dr. Argyropoulis. My spellcheck says his name is spelled wrong, but it also doesn't recognize 'nephrologist', so... Everyone told me I could "just call him Dr. Christos", because "nobody can say his name." Challenge accepted! I practiced it all day, and he says I said it right - he may have just been humoring me.

There I got the bad news that my blood sugar test from that morning had been a touch high. That meant I have to take a blood glucose test later this week, so I don't know anything for sure yet. My kidney function was good, though (95), as well as all the other results they had, so - fingers crossed!***

If all goes well, I will be starting what is called a chain donation. My kidney will be given to a waiting recipient who is determined to be the best match. I am told getting the call that you have a living donor match is like winning the lottery - any viable kidney would be great, but one from a living donor is so much better!

A friend or relative of that recipient, who wasn't a good match for them, instead donates their kidney to someone else on the list. That chain continues for as long as they can stretch it out, but the final kidney donation in the chain comes back to the originating hospital. So instead of saving one life, you can be a catalyst to saving many!

Some questions I got answered:

What kind of timeline are we looking at?
If the rest of my tests go well, it is sent to committee. They look over all the information and decide together if I am a good candidate. At that point, we can pick a date. Mila said there are two dates available in November and two in December. I am hoping for early December, as that works best with work/family/vacation schedules.

Surgery is done on a Wednesday, at UNM. They transport the kidneys (complete with GPS tracking), not the patients. Usually, the donor goes home on Friday.

In one week, you come back in for a follow-up visit, then they see you periodically over the next two years. You are out of work for 4-6 weeks, although the last donor they had was back at work after two.

Will I know anything about the recipient?

If the donor and the recipient both agree, information can be exchanged, otherwise no. (I will be giving my consent, but I understand if they don't want to.)

Can I still donate blood? I am scheduled to later in October.

Probably should skip it this time around, but I should be able to in the future.

And some stats I got through googling and through my visit:

- At any given time, there are over 100,000 people waiting for a kidney transplant. That's 100,000 people who will DIE if they don't get what most of us have an 'extra' of. Imagine you are standing on a boat holding two life jackets, and the guy on the boat next to you has none - and his boat is sinking. Are you really going to stand there and clutch your extra life jacket while he drowns?
- 20 of those people die every day.
- Almost as many people become too sick while they are waiting to qualify for a transplant.
- To donate you need to be 18 and healthy. I am not too old at all - in fact I am in the median age group!
- One kidney functions the same as two. You don't pee any more than you did before. You can still play sports, still get pregnant, etc. Not that I plan to do either of those two, but it may be of interest to other people!
- Kidneys from living donors last much longer than those from cadavers (deceased donors) - approximately twice as long. Many recipients go through the emotional and physical stress of one transplant, only to have to face another a decade later - at which point the transplant may be less likely to succeed.

More great reading:

***Phew! After some questionable results from the local lab (which also said I was pregnant and completely messed up my name), I am cleared to go! My surgery is scheduled for December 19, which will give them plenty of time to get a chain organized. That coincides nicely with the start of Christmas break for the kids, which is also a break from programming at the library, so good timing all around!

I am going to be posting updates along the way, but please please know it is not for any sort of pat on the back. I am doing this because it is something I want to do. What I am hoping is that someone somewhere will become familiar with the process, and think maybe they want to do it too. Could that someone be you??

Friday, October 19, 2018

Review: My Best Friend is a Goldfish by Mark Lee and Chris Jevons


After arguing with his best friend about which game to play, a boy decides it's time to find a new best friend. So he tries to becoming the best of friends with his other pets. He learns to eat on the floor with his dog, take naps with his cat, and watch the world from underwater with his goldfish. But none of these animals measure up to his true best friend. He may just discover that being different from each other is okay after all.

Ah, the childhood squabbles. I have five kids at home. Sometimes they get along like siblings, and sometimes they get along like siblings. At the end of the day, though, I'm sure they wouldn't trade each other for someone else...right?

A simple message for a perennial problem. Not delivered in any sort of preachy way, but with examples and illustrations that will tickle children's funny bones. And, if they are anything like mine, will soon see them eating off the floor like the dog, or shoving food in their cheeks like the hamster. Consider yourself forewarned.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Review: Amazing Migrators Series


I don't believe I have any books about wildebeests. (checking) Okay, I have two. But one is ten years old, and the other is part of a series on baby animals. Obviously a hole in my collection I needed to fill.


Dragonflies I have. But these aren't JUST books about the particular animals:

With such small, thin wings, it's hard to imagine dragonflies flying long distances. But some dragonflies are migrators! Some dragonflies even travel for thousands of miles. From egg to adult dragonfly and then on through their migration, follow the journey of migrating dragonflies!

Usually when we think of migrating, birds and butterflies come to mind.  It is interesting to hear about other animals that move large distances throughout the seasons. In addition to the expected monarch butterflies and the above titles, we can read about arctic terns, salmon, and whales.

In the first title we learn that baby wildebeest are walking within minutes of birth, so they can keep up with the rest of the herd. Minor quibble - it says the wildebeest "eats grass with its black snout." Since every dictionary I checked agreed that the snout is the nose and mouth, I think that could have been said a little better.

Dragonfly babies (or nymphs), by comparison, spend a lot of time as nymphs, and don't migrate until they are fully formed adults. I remember once when I was young, rowing my little inflatable boat around a pond, when some water washed in and I was suddenly sitting in what seemed like hundreds of dragonfly nymphs. I like bugs as a general rule, but nymphs are not as pretty as their parents, and...well, let's just say it still makes me shudder 40 years later. They are still fascinating creatures, and I think kids will enjoy the extreme close-ups of these very fast-moving animals!

End pages of each title include fun facts, more (related) migrators, glossary, index, and links for further reading.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Review: Me and My Cars by Liesbet Slegers


Toot-toot! Cars are everywhere. Some drive superfast, others are very big, some transport things and others have a siren. Which cars do you recognize?

The small size and square shape made me think this was a board book at first, but the inside pages, while slightly stiffer than paper, are definitely more suited to the picture book shelf - not sturdy enough to stand up to much mishandling! Fortunately, the length and text are more suited to picture books as well. (We will choose to ignore the grammatical error in the title.)

Approximately 2 dozen vehicles are featured, divided into groups such as helpers or workers. Each has 2-3 short lines of text, simply telling what the vehicle is called and what it does. Very young readers will find the pattern comfortable. Bright colorful illustrations, some with photographs adding a little textural depth, may inspire similar artwork on the reader's part.

A fun read for any little one obsessed with things that go!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Review: The Day the War Came by Nicola Davies and Rebecca Cobb


This is one of those books that made me go "Ohhh!" at the end, then immediately hand it to my coworker, so she could cry, too!

The day war came there were flowers on the windowsill and my father sang my baby brother back to sleep.

Imagine if, on an ordinary day, after a morning of studying tadpoles and drawing birds at school, war came to your town and turned it to rubble. Imagine if you lost everything and everyone, and you had to make a dangerous journey all alone. Imagine that there was no welcome at the end, and no room for you to even take a seat at school. And then a child, just like you, gave you something ordinary but so very, very precious. In lyrical, deeply affecting language, Nicola Davies’s text combines with Rebecca Cobb’s expressive illustrations to evoke the experience of a child who sees war take away all that she knows.

When your child starts hard asking questions about things they see or hear on the news, this is the book you want to have on hand to help you find the words. Both people and locations in these illustrations could be anyone, anywhere, making it easier for children to relate. The spare text is from the perspective of the child, and adults' faces are often not even shown. Some horrors are hinted at, allowing adults to delve into them more or just let them pass for now (...then up a beach where shoes lay empty in the sand...)

Just when it seems there is no room for hope, it comes from another child, and then other children. And that is, indeed, where our hope lies - that our children will grow to see a need, and to respond instinctively in the simplest ways. A sad but beautiful volume that deserves a place in every library.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Review: Kids in War series


In November 1942, twelve-year-old Calvin Graham found himself in the midst of an intense battle on a ship in the Pacific Ocean. An explosion damaged his ship and wounded many of his shipmates, but Calvin acted quickly to do his duty and help those around him. Join Calvin aboard the USS South Dakota and experience the story of one of the youngest people to serve in World War II.

Incredible - not only was he able to fool enough people to join the ranks of the Navy (and sure, they were probably willing to look the other way for kids who weren't quite 17...but 12?!), but he also showed poise and dedication beyond that of many adults. And then to have his awards stripped from him when they learned his true age (thanks a lot, Mom)! Nothing fires up a middle schooler like righteous indignation - history teachers can use this title to introduce anything from World War II to Veterans' Rights. This would be a fantastic book to read right before Veteran's Day, giving some context, and hopefully some deserved respect to those grizzled old veterans who come to the schools to speak.


Gunfire rang out across the countryside as fifteen-year-old John Cook watched his unit struggle during the Battle of Antietam. Union troops were falling fast as they tried to push Confederate forces out of Maryland. With only a few soldiers left standing, John knew he had to do something. Follow John as he joins in, fighting against all odds to defend his unit during the bloodiest day of the Civil War.

By comparison, Cook was an old man at 15 years old. He began serving as a bugler or messenger, but at Antietam he was needed to actually fight. What struck me on the timeline is that it took 32 years before Cook was awarded a medal for his efforts - almost the same amount of time it took for Graham's medal to be returned to him.

Both of these titles were very quick reads, engaging and quick-paced without resorting to gore and sensationalism. Get this series on your shelves for those reluctant readers and watch them fly back off! Other titles include:

Johnny Clem's Civil War Story
Momcilo Gavric's World War I Story
Sybil Ludington's Revolutionary War Story
Tillie Pierce's Civil War Story

Monday, October 8, 2018

Review: Laugh Your Socks Off Series



Who's there?
Lettuce who?
Lettuce in already!


What do you get if you cross a frog and a Popsicle?
A hopsicle.

The joke book section is one of those most librarians know by heart (818), along with dinosaurs (567.9) and fairy tales (398.2). They go out so frequently, they are often tattered beyond repair, so we are always looking for new ones. I was especially happy to see this series offered by Lerner, because I have never ever had to repair a binding on one of their books!

Knock-knock jokes were very big at my house for a while, and my children are perennial punsters (I blame their father), but there were still many jokes I have not yet heard. Fresh and new is good when we are talking children's humor! They may even learn some vocabulary and science in spite of themselves:

Why did the shellfish lift weights?
He wanted to have big mussels.

Other jokes will work better in specific contexts:

Who's there?
Warren who?
Warren any green today? It's St. Patrick's Day!

Either way, I predict multiple circs (and much groaning if they make it to my house.) We will be purchasing the others in the series as well:

World's Best and Worst Puns
World's Best and Worst Riddles
World's Best and Worst Spooky Jokes
World's Best and Worst Sports Jokes