By ADAM SCHRADER and LARRY MCSHANE
Published in the New York Daily News on Nov. 11, 2017
Little Kinsey Saleh’s life-and-death battle with kidney failure came with a storybook ending — and now, with a storybook all her own.
The Queens kid, still thriving more than three years after her organ transplant, takes the starring role in “Kinsey’s Kidney Adventure,” a kids’ book written by her mom, Nadine Morsi.
“I was more than happy — I was thrilled,” raved Kinsey, now 9, after assisting in the finished product. “The illustrations look just like me!”
Morsi teamed up with artist Brandy Rumiez on the book that recounts her daughter’s roller-coaster ride of illness, transplant and recovery.
“I never thought we’d get to this point,” Morsi told the Daily News at her Queens home. “I remember being so overwhelmed at the amount of medicine she had to take.
“All I could think was, ‘Is she going to be OK and live through this?’”
Mother and child emerged with flying colors from the May 2014 surgery. Kinsey, now a fourth-grader, bounced around the house and climbed all over Morsi as they discussed the new book.
Kinsey’s medicine intake is down to three pills in the morning, and three more at night. She keeps busy shooting hoops, cheerleading and with gymnastics.
“Her doctor likes to keep her active, to keep her heart healthy,” Morsi said.
The single mom wrote through the eyes of her child, from the little girl’s disdain for IVs to her time in dialysis to The News’ coverage of her lifesaving surgery.
“When I woke up I had a new kidney — one that was mine, one I could keep!” says the Kinsey character in the book, wearing a crown and a wide smile as she rides atop a unicorn.
The first spark of the book idea came from Kinsey, when she was assigned to do a post transplant school project: a time line of an event from her life.
“Can we choose when I was sick?” she asked her mother. And so a book was born.
Morsi first knew there was something wrong with her typically spunky daughter in December 2013, when Kinsey suddenly became easily fatigued.
She complained of joint pain, and bruises began appearing after the slightest of bumps.
A blood test delivered the unthinkable news: End-stage kidney failure, a death sentence without a transplant. Doctors warned the girl was in danger of suffering a stroke or cardiac arrest because of her potassium levels.
Little Kinsey was rushed to Cohen Children’s Medical Center on Long Island, where the pint-size patient endured four surgeries and several transfusions.
By March, she was on a waitlist for a transplant.
The News ran a story about Kinsey’s plight that same month, with more than 100 readers contacting the Mount Sinai transplant center to ask about donating a kidney to the suffering child.
A family friend agreed to give Kinsey one of his kidneys. One of The News’ readers wound up donating her kidney to a complete stranger in California.
In the book, Kinsey’s donor — who chose to remain anonymous — flies in like a superhero.
“How do you thank somebody for that?” Morsi asked. “I gave birth to her, and then you saved her life.”
The book went on sale last week, and is available on the Amazon, Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble websites.
Morsi received funding for the book from the philanthropic arm of LiveOnNY, the federally designated organization that oversees organ and tissue transplantation in New York.
The nonprofit group supported Morsi’s project from the start, and Kinsey will receive 80% of the proceeds for a college and medical fund.
The mom recalled how isolated she felt as Kinsey’s potentially lethal health problems appeared from nowhere and rapidly multiplied.
“That’s why I wrote the book,” she told The News. “I didn’t have anything positive to explain to myself or Kinsey the situation she was in. I wanted other people to have that resource.”
Kinsey found an unexpected kindred spirit in September when actress/singer Selena Gomez received a kidney transplant. The excited little girl sent off a handwritten letter to the 25-year-old star.
“I thought I was the only one that had a kidney transplant and it didn’t make me feel normal,” she wrote. “Someone very special gave me a kidney just like your friend did for you.
“We are both very lucky.”