‘Moonface': A Story of Family and Transplantation

Angela and her donor husband Charlie

In her newly-released memoir, MOONFACE: A True Romance, three-time transplant recipient Angela Balcita, 36, describes what it was like to suffer kidney failure her freshman year of college and receive a donor organ from her brother, which her body later rejected. Lucky for Angela, her boyfriend, Charlie (who affectionately nicknamed her "Moonface"—a strange side effect of her medicine), offered her his kidney without hesitation even though they'd only known each other a short time. The story that unfolds is by turns funny, bittersweet, and heartwarming—about how difficult it can be to accept the gifts of unconditional love and sacrifice.

Click here for more on living donation and transplantation.

The following is an excerpt from MOONFACE: A True Romance…

I bet after that he thought it would be happily ever after, all jokes and silliness. All kissy face and googly eyes. I bet he didn't think he had a sick puppy on his hands. Early on, I tried not to bring it up. Instead, I let him buy me drinks. I laughed at all his jokes. I was afraid to tell him about my kidney disease and about the first transplant I got from my brother when I was eighteen. I was afraid to tell him about the side effects of the medication I was on, how the drugs expanded my demur cheeks into wide rounds on my face, how they made my small body bigger. In a crowded bar, he held his chin up with one hand, and reached across the table to touch my arm with the other.

"Now, I have three kidneys."

"So what, I have a Spock ear."

"I mean, I take like nine medicines," I said.

"I get sunburned through skylights," he challenged.

"High blood pressure."

"Oshgood-shlatter."

"I have a big scar that runs from the middle of my abdomen to my bikini line," I said.

"I have . . . to see it!" he said.

Later that night, he did see my scar.

I was cautious about letting Charlie see me only as a medical case history. I stuffed my blood pressure cuff in a closet before he came over, and I stashed my medicines away in an inconspicuous basket over the microwave. But while standing in the kitchen drinking a beer one night, he leaned up against the counter and reached for one of the tiny orange pharmacy bottles and started reading the label out loud.

"Caution: May cause increased appetite and fat deposits. May cause acne, hair growth, weight gain and a moon-face complexion," he read.

From a barstool, I looked down and focused on the tiles on the floor. I could the feel the heat rise up against the sides of my face like a rapidly-developing sunburn. He had picked up a bottle of Prednisone, one of my anti-rejection drugs with the ugliest side effect. It made my cheeks bloated and the shape of my face round. I was a cartoon head atop a human body. This drug made it visibly clear that I wasn't just a regular girl; it marked me as transplanted. Charlie looked up at me with the bottle in one hand, combed the stubble on his chin with the other, and said, "Moon-face . . . That almost sounds pretty, huh?"

Click here to purchase MOONFACE at the NKF Store.