Children’s book creator inspired by own kidney journey
When Georgina Potier created the children’s book, My New Kidney, five years ago in collaboration with senior consultants and play specialists at Great Ormond Street Hospital, she had no idea what a huge impact it would go on to have.
The interactive book helps children awaiting a kidney transplant to understand what to expect in the lead up to, and after their operation, encouraging them to draw, colour in, comment and write questions, so that they can go into surgery feeling less afraid.
Since then, with the help of funding and support from Kidney Research UK, the project has blossomed and Georgina’s not-for-profit company, Get Better Books, has gone on to produce bespoke versions of My New Kidney for several hospitals across the UK.
Personal inspiration for the book
Georgina, who is a kidney patient herself, was first inspired to create the book after becoming concerned about the quality of information being given out to children awaiting a transplant.
“I was shocked by how poor it was, both design-wise and the wording,” she says. “After my second transplant, I went back to Great Ormond Street and explained that, as an adult, I understood the impact of having a transplant and said that I’d love to use my design skills to help children going through it.”
Few people could be better placed than Georgina, 41, to create such a useful publication. She was just seven years old when she had her first transplant – a new right kidney – and knows just how confusing and daunting the process can be at that age.
“A book like My New Kidney would have been incredibly useful to the seven year old me,” she says. “One of the pages shows a bear lying down in bed with the lines you’ll wake up with after your operation on its body. That can be quite overwhelming, but if you’ve seen it in a book before you have it, it’s not as much of a shock.”
Despite battling pneumonia and bouts of glandular fever as a child, Georgina’s new kidney went on to last for 23 years. But ten years ago she suddenly found herself in A&E and on emergency dialysis.
“I was struggling to breathe so a friend took me to hospital, where I ended up on life support,” she says. “They told me my kidney results were getting worse and worse and that I’d need another transplant. So I ended up on dialysis three times a week.”
Seven months later, shortly before Christmas 2013, Georgina had a second transplant, but unfortunately she is now on dialysis again and awaiting transplant number three.
“They think that the second kidney had an underlying problem they didn’t know about and three years ago my results started to creep up again,” she says. “Last November they actually found me a new kidney, but I’d contracted pneumonia and they said I was too poorly for a transplant. So now I’m just waiting for that call.”
A rewarding experience
In the meantime, Georgina is ploughing her energies into Get Better Books, the publishing company she runs with illustrator Dr Jake Abrams, her former tutor at Kingston School of Art. Both have been overjoyed by its success.
As well as winning a prestigious D&AD [Design & Art Direction] award this year and receiving accolades from the likes of children’s author and Kidney Research UK ambassador Dame Jacqueline Wilson – herself a kidney transplant patient – it has led to further books dealing with other serious medical conditions.
“This has got so much bigger than we ever imagined,” says Georgina. “After the success of My New Kidney, the kidney team at Great Ormond Street started showing it to other teams and it exploded from there. The heart transplant team then got in touch, so we worked with them on a version. Then we produced a book for children with cerebral palsy and we’ve just done two books dealing with cancer.
“To be helping all these children is so rewarding.”
In terms of scale, Georgina says receiving funding from Kidney Research UK has been vital in helping produce as many books as possible.
“We’ve got ten projects on the go with Kidney Research UK and having their financial support is definitely a weight off our shoulders,” she says. “Although the demand is very much there for the books, the problem is finding the funding, so Kidney Research UK has been a huge help.
“Altogether we’ve probably helped around 3,500 children so far and we hope to help many more in future.”
For more information on Get Better Books, visit https://www.getbetterbooks.co.uk/
Since speaking to us for this article, we have had the good news that Georgina has recently received her third kidney transplant and is recovering well.
Read more news
Why not make a donation now?
(Every £ counts)