Author Archives

From Kyiv to Kentucky

Getty Images / Collage by Homestead Studio

Katya Cengel | Longreads | December 2019 | 10 minutes (2,513 words)

I punched a series of numbers into a cordless phone, waited for a prompt and then punched a dozen or so more. Before Skype there was PennyTalk. The phone card saved you money, not time, requiring the input of a long account number, followed by an equally long password, and a no less extensive foreign phone number. At present I was using the cumbersome process to my advantage, trying to figure out how I would break the news to my Ukrainian fiancé that he would be joining me not in California, but in Kentucky.

Dima was from Kyiv. He photographed news and fashion in the Ukrainian capital. He was sweet, funny — and a snob.

The voice that picked up on the other end was distant and distracted.

“Hi Dimka,” I said, hoping the use of the further diminutive of the diminutive of his name would somehow make up for what I was about to tell him.

“Katiushinka!” His voice softened in recognition. “How are you? How is the job hunt?”
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The Organ Transplant Story You Don’t Hear

Getty / Photo illustration by Katie Kosma

Katya Cengel | Longreads | November 2018 | 14 minutes (3,847 words)


His arms are covered with the sticky gunk left after bandages come off. There is a blue bruise on the inside of his right forearm. A long plastic tube enters a hole near his belly button. When it’s not in use, James “Bo” Calvert tucks the tube that he uses for dialysis into a spandex “bra” that circles his chest.

Calvert has stage 4 kidney disease, which means his kidney function is only 15 to 30 percent. There are six stages of chronic kidney disease — stage 4 is the last stage before end-stage renal disease (ESRD), when the kidneys cannot filter waste and excess fluid from the blood. At this point, you need a transplant or dialysis to stay alive.

Calvert has had both.

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