TransplantInformers Book Club: Donor by Ken McClure
Lo, many years ago, I was an English minor in college. Hence, I take great pleasure in reading works of fiction in a collective setting, being able to discuss and develop ideas about a text. TransplantInformers is surely about real world practice in donor outreach and education. However, we cannot deny that fictional narratives affect public consciousness and perhaps reveal greater hopes and anxieties beyond the medical content at hand.
The romance of using transplantation and transfusion in fictive works is powerful stuff. Why it is employed so often? That is a question I have been pondering more and more. In covering such works, not only are we bringing attention to these in the transplant/transfusion outreach community, it is an opportunity to build your own reading list, create an open, collective setting to discuss the material, and ask deeper questions about the implementation of medical tropes.
Medical thrillers are a nice place to start. They’re usually written to be accessible page-turners. And they’re often more widely read than other works. They are a fast read for those pressed for time, and generally highly entertaining. It’s pop literature, easily digestible. Admittedly it’s not a genre I’ve read much of recently. The last book of this sort I distinctly remember reading was Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone. In fact, he’s an undergraduate product of the same English department whence my minor came.
But thanks to my nifty new Kindle, I went on a rabid search for free or cheap e-books and came across Donor by Ken McClure, a very popular medical thriller from 2001. It’s obvious relevance to my research interests and the paltry fee of $1.36 culminated in my acquisition of this book. Earlier this year it was one of the top 50 kindle bestsellers in the UK Amazon store, and his books have been praised for their plausibility and well-researched content. As the author’s page on Donor describes it :
When seven year old Amanda Chapman is admitted to hospital with acute renal failure, her parents are in despair. Their hope is renewed when Amanda is accepted for treatment as a rare NHS patient at Glasgow’s exclusive private hospital, Medic Ecosse. They have a pioneering, state-of-the-art dialysis unit there and it looks as if Amanda might just have the one last chance she needs before a donor is found. But behind the lavish hospital corridors, private rooms and friendly staff lurks something much more sinister. Dr. Stephen Dunbar, sent undercover by the Home Office to investigate seemingly inexplicable complaints made by two ex-members of staff at Medic Ecosse, gradually begins to lift the lid on a horrifying conspiracy. One that is too fearsome to contemplate.
Such a premise, in some ways, is not new. There are plenty of narratives out there that broach the secret machinations of hospitals and the specter of bodily exploitation lurking around every corner. Yet this captures the imagination of readers and viewers over and over again. When so much of the creative bandwidth is in a darker spectrum, it is definitely a complicating factor in donor outreach and education that tries to emphasize the positive aspects of transplantation.
As the Manchester Evening News has said about McClure’s work:
It is intensely factual and that is why the fiction he writes is so horrifying.
It is one thing to grapple with outlandish claims about
transplantation, it is another to engage with factually accurate,
plausible fictional pieces, especially ones that foment a sense of doom
or horror. With such a review, I especially look forward to reading Donor
and sharing more about it in the coming weeks. I would love to hear if
anyone else has thoughts on it too. Maybe it’s time to start a TransplantInformers book club!