Borrowing Life

Borrowing Life

How Scientists, Surgeons, and a War Hero Made the First Successful Organ Transplant a Reality

Shelley Fraser Mickle


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Against a global backdrop of wartime suffering and postwar hope, Borrowing Life gathers the personal histories of the men and women behind the team that enabled and performed the modern medical miracle of the world's first successful organ transplant.

"An extraordinary work. Shelley Fraser Mickle has not only provided a detailed, fascinating documentation of the world's first successful organ transplant, but she has also painted the lives of those involved--doctors, patients, family members--so vividly that the reader is completely enthralled and emotionally invested in their grieved losses as well as their successes. The result is a beautiful tribute to medical science as well as to humanity."
Jill McCorkle, NYT bestselling author of Life After Life

"Working with Dr. Moore, Dr. Murray and Dr, Vandam to create the painting commemorating their historic operation and the research leading up to it was the greatest adventure of my artistic career. Having my painting on the cover of Borrowing Life renews that excitement, for I know what grand adventure is waiting for the reader." Joel Babb, artist

"I was so very pleased to be involved with Shelley as she wrote her captivating, compelling book. I only wish that Ron could be here with me to read it."
Cynthia Herrick, wife of the first successful organ transplant donor

"Had these men and women not worked diligently to save the life of Charles Woods, I and my 5 brothers and 3 sisters, would not have been born. Charles Woods and Miriam Woods are my parents. It is thrilling to read Ms Mickle's book as it closely mirrors the stories our dad and mom shared with us as children. The amazing thing is that as a disfigured war hero, our dad embraced his appearance as a badge of honor."
David Woods

Performed at Boston's Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in 1954, the first successful kidney transplant was the culmination of years of grit, compassion, and the pursuit of excellence by a remarkable medical team--Nobel Prize-winning surgeon Joseph Murray, his boss and fellow surgeon Francis Moore, and British scientist and fellow Nobel laureate Peter Medawar. Drawing on the lives of these members of the Greatest Generation, Borrowing Life creates a compelling narrative that begins in wartime and tracks decades of the ups and downs, personal and professional, of these inspiring men and their achievements, which continue to benefit humankind in so many ways.


Shelley Fraser Mickle:
Shelley Fraser Mickle is an award-winning novelist whose first novel, The Queen of October, was a New York Times Notable Book and selected by Library Journal as one of the ten best adult books suitable for young adults. Her novel Replacing Dad won an America's Writers Award in Chicago and was adapted for film. Her nonfiction book for middle-grade readers, Barbaro, America's Horse, won a Bank Street Award, and American Pharaoh, Triple Crown Champion, was chosen by the New York Public Library as one of the best nonfiction books for children in 2017. From 2000 to 2006 she was a commentator for National Public Radio's "Morning Edition." Her husband trained under the Brigham surgeons who are the focus of Borrowing Life.