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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"â€”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 heartwarmingâ€”about how difficult it can be to accept the gifts of unconditional love and sacrifice.
The following is an excerpt from MOONFACE: A True Romanceâ€¦
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."
"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.