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The Courtship Basket, which is the second book in my Amish Heirloom series, is a book that’s very close to my heart. The story touches on the topic of kidney disease, and my husband, Joe, has had two kidney transplants.

Kidney disease has been a black cloud over our lives for more than a decade. Joe was first diagnosed in early 2000, less than two years after we were married. In March of 2003, Joe went on dialysis. I clearly remember the day he told me the news; we cried together on the phone. It was a very difficult time for our family. Back then, we had a two-year-old son, Zachary, and I was pregnant. I suffered a miscarriage soon after Joe went on dialysis.

After a year on dialysis, Joe received a kidney from his younger brother, Jason, on March 29, 2004. Our second son, Matthew was born on March 25, 2005, almost a year to the day of the transplant. His birth appropriately fell on Good Friday since he was our miracle.

Unfortunately, Joe went through rejection 18 months after he received his brother’s kidney. His team of doctors was able to save the transplanted kidney, but he never regained full function. He slowly lost kidney function, and he finally went back on dialysis in July 2008 after the transplanted kidney failed. For three long years, Joe suffered on hemodialysis, where he sat hooked up to a machine in a dialysis center for four-hour treatments, three times per week.

Joe’s illness was also difficult for our sons, who are now 15 and 11. There were days when Joe was too ill to spend time with them. We couldn’t plan vacations, since coordinating dialysis out of town is complicated, and as Joe would say, it wouldn’t be fun for him to be sick in the hotel room.

The-Courtship-Basket_EW1-copy-e1455853314178Aside from the emotional toll of Joe’s illness, we also suffered from financial worries. Since Joe was only well enough to work part-time, I carried the financial burden by working full-time and also writing Christian fiction.

Since Joe had rejected his brother’s kidney, his body built up antibodies and people who had been considered viable kidney donor matches for him back in 2004 were no longer a match. I was told I was a possible match in 2003, but I no longer matched him. His mother also was not a possible match for him either.

I sobbed the day I found out that I couldn’t give Joe my kidney, but I was thankful when I found out about the paired donor program, where I could donate a kidney in exchange for one for Joe.

We started the process of trying to find him a donor, and we registered with four transplant centers throughout the country. We were thankful when Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore finally found Joe a match after his difficult three-year wait.

On June 14, 2011, I donated a kidney to a stranger in order for Joe to receive one in exchange. Miraculously, Joe and I matched another couple. I donated a kidney to a woman named Nyeisha, and in exchange, her husband, Eric, gave a kidney to Joe. We didn’t meet them until after the surgery, and we now consider them part of our family. Both Joe and Nyeisha are doing well, and I am so thankful for the new life they’ve been given through the kidney transplant.

The Courtship Basket is the first book in which I included the topic of kidney disease. At first I was hesitant to write about the disease since it was so personal and close to my heart. As I began plotting out the book, I suddenly felt the urge to include a character with kidney disease in order to help bring the topic to light.

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In the story, Raymond Lantz suffers from kidney disease similarly to how Joe did. Raymond has to undergo hemodialysis three times per week, and he is often too exhausted to do anything other than rest. His son, Mike, has to care for him, and Mike struggles with caring for his father, raising his younger brother, and working to support the family. I wove in some of the challenges Joe and I faced during his battle with kidney disease, including his exhaustion and my struggle to keep balance in my life while dealing being a parent, caregiver, and breadwinner.

I dedicated this book to Nyeisha and Eric. Both Joe and Nyeisha are doing well, and we celebrated our 5-year kidney-versary on June 14. I’m so thankful God gave me the opportunity to donate a kidney, and I’m also thankful for their kidney health.

I hope readers enjoy this book, and I also hope the story helps to bring the topic of kidney disease to the forefront.

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