Sunday, March 27, 2022

One kidney trip, Two authors, and a Boundless Heart ~ PAMELA STOCKWELL & KELLY HARTOG'S kidney kinship journey

This post is veering from my typical author interview/new book release post, and for a very good reason. I hope you will take a few minutes to read about these two amazing women and the event that will take place on March 29th.

Read about their connection here. I've included Pamela's book below, along with the synopsis, previously featured on this blog. 💖


Written by Kelly Hartog earlier this month:


After a long and stressful process (about a year, but who’s counting?), my living kidney donor has been approved and I will undergo my lifesaving transplant surgery at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles on March 29.

I suffer from polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a genetic, hereditary disease that ultimately shuts down your kidneys. There is no cure for PKD. A year ago I was listed on the UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing) cadaver donor list because I need a kidney transplant in order to survive, and my kidney function had dropped to 14%. At the same time, I was actively seeking a living donor because the wait for a cadaver donor in Southern California where I live is about 10 years (time I do not have).

During the past year, as I held out hope for a donor, I became progressively more ill. I underwent two major hospitalizations, one of which was in a critical care unit. I required two back-to-back blood transfusions, suffered acute hypertension and went into acute respiratory failure. I also suffered numerous infections, ruptured cysts and my kidney function dropped to 7%. I can’t really explain what that feels like (maybe driving a car with four flat tires comes close). I lost almost 20 pounds. I lost my job in the pandemic. My savings dwindled. I launched our news site (, which I have been forced to put on hiatus until I recover from my transplant.

So, this incredible news has been a LONG time coming. It has been a rollercoaster of a year.
I can’t even begin to explain how extraordinary it is that my donor — the incredible Pamela Armstrong Stockwell — was willing to do this. To willingly subject yourself as a healthy person to surgery; to give away a part of your body to save another person’s life; to undergo months of endless testing; to ride the physical and emotional rollercoaster that is needed to become a donor takes a truly special person. But anyone who knows Pamela knows she is that rarest of rare gems and would tell you in a heartbeat that it is not remotely surprising that she would do this. This is the woman who adopted not one, not two, but three children from China; the woman who volunteers at a cat sanctuary; the woman who always puts others first.

Despite all the terrible things that have happened to me, I continue to be wrapped in so much love and support — physical, emotional, financial and spiritual. From friends and family far and wide. From my extraordinary synagogue community and rabbis. From my nephrologist who fights so hard for me every single day. When Pamela was initially denied as a potential donor by my transplant team, my nephrologist stepped up and told them there was no earthly reason for her to not be considered and he made sure she was accepted again to be tested. And bless Pamela for agreeing to continue to move forward.

But here’s the kicker. Were it NOT for the pandemic, and being laid off, I wouldn’t have had the time to preemptively do all the preliminary tests (that took about four months) to have me ready to meet with a transplant center. Bless my nephrologist for doing this ahead of time so by the time I was eligible to be listed on the UNOS transplant list I had all my ducks in a row and was approved in less than a week.

And were it not for the pandemic I would never have even met Pamela. She lives in New Jersey and I live in Los Angeles. When the pandemic hit and everyone discovered Zoom, we became part of a daily writing group over Zoom. 

My dear friend Michele Montgomery and I are members of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA). We used to have early morning write in dates where we’d check in on the phone, write for two hours and check back at the end.

When the pandemic hit, she set up early morning write ins - 7 days a week - for WFWA members over Zoom. That began two years ago with a handful of members and over the last two years it has grown in leaps and bounds. We have met every single morning to write and have grown incredibly close. We have met members’ pets and children over Zoom. We have celebrated milestones and shared both sorrows and joys. It was on these Zoom write ins that I met Pamela and a whole slew of amazing women.

They all knew my situation (they even put a video together for me during one of my hospital stays), and when I was listed in February 2021 as an eligible transplant recipient she told me not long after she wanted to get tested! 

And just because somebody wants to donate, doesn’t mean they will be a match. It’s not an easy process. It’s even more difficult when you have no family members to be tested as they are often the best matches. But PKD is genetic. My dad died from it and all three children inherited it. Both my brother and sister have already had successful transplants. I do have other people who were tested who did not turn out to be compatible. 

So it truly is a miracle that Pamela and I found each other thanks to the pandemic, and the WFWA write-ins, and that she was willing to offer to do this and that she turned out to be a match!

So you see, I literally owe my life to this pandemic. I don’t even know how you repay someone with the ultimate gift of life, but I can start by telling people to buy Pamela’s amazing debut novel, which is appropriately called A BOUNDLESS PLACE (see below.)

Finally, around 5,000 people die in America every year waiting for a kidney. Approximately 95,000 people are on the UNOS transplant list and only about 30,000 of them will receive a kidney. Please consider becoming a living kidney donor. You can learn about it at the National Kidney Foundation here and about UCLA’s living kidney donor program here. In addition to my now being able to be removed from the UNOS transplant list thanks to Pamela, that means someone else on the UNOS list will receive a life-saving kidney that would have been earmarked for me.

Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world. ~ Talmud Sanhedrin 37a

Written by Pamela Stockwell earlier this month:

One year ago this month, in March 2021, my daughter and I drove to South Carolina to see my dad. At one point, she was driving, so I checked Facebook to while away the time and I see that my friend and fellow writer Kelly Hartog had posted a plea for a kidney. I knew she had kidney problems and that she needed a new kidney, but through her post, I learned more about her disease (polycystic kidney disease or PKD) and kidney donation. Her post had a link to apply as a possible donor. So what else does one do on a seven-hundred-mile road trip but sign up to give away a vital organ? I figured I’d probably be rejected at some point, but I could at least try.

Turns out, I was rejected. At least initially. But, somewhere along the way, the vague idea of wanting to do something turned into a pretty strong desire to do this. So, I had further tests and was soon reinstated as a possible donor. And the further I burrowed into the process, the more determined I became to see it through.

Eleven months, six thousand tests, and sharing more bodily fluid with lab techs than I ever thought possible (eighteen vials of blood in one morning! While fasting!), I was finally approved by two hospitals (one in NJ and one in CA) to be Kelly’s donor. Our surgeries are scheduled for the end of March.

My kidney is going on a trip across the country and finding a new home with Kelly in California. I am sure it will be very happy because Kelly is a smart, witty, resilient, awesome person.

But here’s the kicker: I have never met Kelly in person and, if it weren’t for the awful pandemic and the wonderful Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA), we likely would never have met.

When the world shut down two years ago, the marvelous Michele Montgomery started hosting writing dates for WFWA members: writers would get together on Zoom, give a brief description of what we were working on that day, then go write. Cameras on or off, but still on Zoom. Alone. But together. There’d be a check-in at forty-five minutes, then back to work, then a final check in after another forty-five-minute interval. It sounds crazy, but there’s some sort of positive, creative energy that is generated in these sessions. I had gone to in-person write-ins with my local band of writers, the Princeton Writing Group, with the same result: focus, accountability, camaraderie. But the pandemic put that on hold, and these Zoom write-ins filled the gap. We don’t do much chatting, but enough happens that you start to get to know the people in those little boxes on your computer screen. That’s how I got to know Kelly. 

And now, with both of us undergoing major surgeries with long recovery periods, our fellow writers in the WFWA have banded together through Give InKind to provide meals and other support. I have been overwhelmed by their support and encouragement.

And I learned some things along the way: Nearly 100,000 Americans are on the waiting list for a kidney transplant and about twelve people die each day while they wait. I learned that live kidney donations have a better outcome for the recipient than kidneys transplanted from deceased donors. I learned that the surgery is safe (though obviously not without risk), and donors are so thoroughly checked out, they often live long lives well beyond their donation because they are overall in such good health. Who knew at my age, I would be healthy enough? But I was and I am. Kidney donation is not for everyone, but if you’d like to learn more, you can do so by visiting Donating a kidney can be a directed donation, like mine, or a non-directed donation, meaning your transplant team will find you a match. But either way, you give a life-sustaining gift to someone who needs it.

Twenty-four-year-old Violet wants one thing: to hide from life after her husband's death left her reeling. But life has other ideas. Well, life and a certain seven-year-old neighbor.

Violet moves to Magnolia Avenue, a forgotten street in a forgotten neighborhood filled with forgotten mobile homes. It looks like the perfect place to retreat and lick her wounds. But it's not long before her young neighbor, Arabella, enlists her in the rescue of the cantankerous old woman next door who has fallen ill. But if Violet thinks this is a one-off event, she's wrong. Next thing she knows, she is entangled in the lives of several neighbors from grumpy Mr. Pritchard to the handsome GI across the street. 

Set against the backdrop of the 1969 moon landing when astronauts broke the boundaries of Earth, A Boundless Place shows what happens when people are able to break through their own boundaries and reach out to others.

If you'd like to donate to help offset their expenses while they're recovering:

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