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Celebrities and spiritual gurus : comparing two biographical accounts of kidney transplantation and recovery

Richards, Rose (2015-05)

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CITATION: Richards, R. 2015. Celebrities and spiritual gurus : comparing two biographical accounts of kidney transplantation and recovery. African Journal of Disability, 4(1):1-10, doi: 10.4102/ajod.v4i1.151.


Background: As a kidney transplant recipient I have long been exposed to a shortage of renal narratives and to a dominant theme in those that exist: transplant as restitution or redemption. My lived experience has, however, shown me that post-transplant life is more complex. Even after transplantation, chronic kidney disease requires lifelong health care with varying degrees of impairment, resulting in ongoing liminality for those who experience it. Nonetheless, as a transplant recipient I find the restitution or redemptive narrative pervasive and difficult to escape. Objective: I examined two seemingly very dissimilar insider renal biographies, Janet Hermans’s Perfect match: A kidney transplant reveals the ultimate second chance, and Steven Cojocaru’s Glamour, interrupted: How I became the best-dressed patient in Hollywood, to explore how the narrators treat chronic kidney disease and transplantation. Methods: In addition to a close textual reading of the biographies, I used my own experience of meaning-making to problematize concepts around restitution or redemptive narratives. Results: I found that the two biographies are, despite appearances and despite the attempts of one author to escape the redemptive form, very much the same type of narrative. The accounts end with the transplant, as is common, but the recipients’ lives continue after this, as they learn to live with their transplants, and this is not addressed. Conclusions: Emphasising restitution or redemption might prevent an understanding of post-transplant liminality that has unique characteristics. The narrator evading this narrative form must come to terms with a changed identity and, sometimes, fight to evade the pervasive narratives others impose.

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