Hazel McHaffie

kidney transplants

An atypical day

Hmmm. Tuesday was such an atypical day I think I’ll tell you about it – the highlights anyway, not the humdrum bits.

5am. Awake soon after 5 (habitual these days).

7am. Still dark as I plough through the streets on my pre-breakfast power-walk, making it all the more surprising to be hailed from across the road by a man walking a beautiful white dog resembling a ghostly wolf. We’ll call him (the man, not the hound), Mr A, since I didn’t get his permission to mention him. Over my Dead BodyApparently he’d attended a talk I’d given before Christmas in the local library, with his friend, K, and they’d both since then read Over My Dead Body and given copies to friends as gifts. Mr A gives me an update on K’s progress since his second kidney transplant; not too encouraging sadly.

It’s so good to get feedback from real people like this who are living through the experiences I write about in my fiction: knowing they endorse my work means a lot. I’m frozen by the time we stop chatting, but move on with a positive spring in my step.

9am onwards throughout the working day. Catch up on writerly reading – back copies of The Author principally, revelling in the realistic opinions of my colleagues who see beyond superficial excitement of a published book to the daily challenges and struggles and disappointments. Such shared experiences are immensely reassuring. 

11.30 am. Receive bouquet of flowers for forthcoming evening from my publisher. Wow! Totally unexpected but much appreciated.Flowers

1pm. Send off a card to William in Northern Ireland who’s been staying in touch and vigorously promoting my book over there. His mum contacted me a few days ago to say he’s finally had a kidney transplant after waiting 16 years. I’ve never met him but I’m sharing the excitement. Get well soon, William.

5.45pm. Off to Blackwell’s Bookshop in the city centre for a 6.30pm author event. Window sign at Blackwell's

Events coordinator, Ann Landmann, has everything ready in good time and sets a lovely relaxed tone. As does the chairperson, Dr Patricia Jackson, who is very professional and enthusiastic.

The bookish setting


The audience are fully engaged and ask good questions. Plenty of buzz around the books and wine afterwards and I’m not stranded at the signing table! Plus I get several invitations/suggestions for future events.Books and wine

This day reminds me why I do what I do on all the unsung solitary days.


Better yet, the following day I receive several calls and emails from folk saying the event and book have made them think again about donation. Now, that’s what I call a result!

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Media interest

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was away four days last week – no time to keep up to date with the papers. Too busy scattering sheep in darkest Wales, inching through traffic in the tourist mecca that is Devon, and meeting distant relatives at funeral wakes. But trawling through the backlog of news since, I was struck by the frequency with which items related to ethics crop up in the media. No less than eleven new cuttings for my files. Subjects like man-made sperm (hmmm, wasn’t it always a male preserve?), a baby’s life saved using tissue from a cow, a man who seems to collect kidneys – he currently has five in his body, three of them donated … You know the kind of thing.

Assisted dying – the subject of one of my novels, Right to Die – featured strongly. But then, this was the week that Lord Falconer’s proposed amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill came before the House of Lords. Just in case your head’s been under a stone too, it was designed to protect from prosecution those who enable friends or relatives to travel abroad to commit suicide in one of a few countries where the practice is legal.

Result? The amendment was rejected; leaving these vulnerable people technically in limbo. No change there then. But as Lord Falconer himself admits, it’s not obvious that it’ll actually make much difference in real life, because ‘The current situation is that the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) has made it clear that he will not seek out these cases to investigate. If the cases come before him, he will ensure that they are properly investigated and, as long as he is satisfied that there is good motivation, he will not prosecute.’ And really, would it serve the public interest to do so anyway?

If you’re looking for a breath of sanity on this subject why not visit the Journal of Medical Ethics blog. I recommend it.

The six million dollar question though is: should seriously ill patients have to go abroad for help in the first place? Don’t get me started!

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