A nephrologist’s memoir of navigating the kidney disease of a loved one.
Grubbs (Medicine/Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital) came by her medical specialty honestly: she fell in love with and later married a man with end-stage kidney disease; a few months into their relationship, she donated a kidney to him. The author’s absorbing first book leads with that personal interest story, but it doesn’t end there. Moving around, occasionally confusingly, in time, Grubbs explores how an African-American girl from a country town in North Carolina came to become a doctor and move to San Francisco. She darts in and out of her experiences in medical school and residency, occasionally landing in a room with one of her patients. While her husband, Robert, is sometimes overly romanticized, the author doesn’t sugarcoat much else in her life. Robert’s kidney replacement, which took place after a long period of dialysis, hardly ended his struggles. It took several surgeries and a considerable amount of luck before the transplanted kidney started working properly. Other medical crises, as well as conflicts between Grubbs and her husband regarding treatment, followed. Revealing details about the experiences of both patient and donor during kidney surgery will enlighten those inside and outside the loop of kidney disease. Along the path to a career in nephrology, Grubbs fell in love not just with her husband, but with the kidney as an organ, with its hundreds of strands “like interlaced fingers.” The author expresses clear, not always politically correct opinions about a medical system that she believes discriminates against blacks, encourages patients to continue dialysis even when it prolongs suffering, and spends money on patients not committed to their own care. Grubbs also includes a helpful appendix of frequently asked questions about kidney disease and treatment.
The book will appeal specifically to those personally affected by kidney disease but should also fascinate anyone interested in the state of health care in the United States.