She’s not just the heart of the band—she’s the kidney, too.

If you’ve read even one of my posts over the last two years, you know that I dig accordion players. And it’s no secret I want the entire world to dig them, too. Yes, I’m talking world domination. But for now, I’ll settle for providing you with one more ounce of indisputable proof that accordion players are some of the super-coolest people on the planet.

Meet Meredith Pangrace.

I first became acquainted with Meredith when she, after stumbling upon one of my blog posts, sent me this Facebook message: “Sending you a friend request from one lady accordion player to another. I’m new at it, too, and have the same passion. Let’s make it cool again!! : )”

I couldn’t click that friend confirmation button fast enough. Here she is playing my fav instrument.

That was March of this year. Fast forward to August, when I noticed a pile of I-hope-you’re-feeling-better postings on Meredith’s Facebook wall. Alarmed that my new accordion pal might be sick, I dug around a bit only to discover that she wasn’t ill, but recovering from an operation at the Cleveland Clinic. She had just donated one of her kidneys to a friend and bandmate—a friend, I later learned, that she first laid eyes on less than two years ago.

The crazy thing is that when I’m not waxing ecstatic about accordions and accordion players by night, I’m writing about organ allocation policy by day. I work at United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) as a member communications specialist and I know a thing or two about organ donation, especially what we call “living donation”—the type of donation where a friend or family member donates their kidney or part of their lung or liver.

So I ring Meredith up and talk for an easy 45 minutes to a young woman who is every bit as cool and nice as I instinctively knew she would be. In the process, I also get exposed to a crazy-good band called Maura Rogers and the Bellows. Needless to say, through this blog post you will get exposed to them too. You can thank me later.

I talked with Maura as well and have pages and pages of notes from my conversations with both of them.  But since this is a blog post and not a master’s thesis, I’ll have to give you a super-condensed version of their super-great story. The following events occurred roughly between April 2011 and August 2012.

  1. Meredith falls fully in love with the accordion (it happens all the time) and wants more, so she responds to a Craig’s List post from a talented singer/songwriter (that would be Maura) who is forming a backup band and specifically looking for a female accordion player.
  2. Meredith responds; it’s an instant adoration fest for all involved. But during practices she notices that Maura is always freezing and bundled up and, despite her unrelenting energy, she sometimes appears weak. Turns out Maura was born with only one kidney. In 2006, that one good kidney starts to crap out, so the doc told her she’d soon need a new one (as in organ transplant). By the time she met Meredith that lone kidney was wearing out fast.
  3. Within months of their first meeting, Meredith discovers she is the same blood type as Maura and thinks, hmmm? Are you getting the idea that Meredith is super cool?
  4. Many of Maura’s eight siblings undergo the testing process to become living donors and all are eventually ruled out because of kidney issues of their own. Maura’s wonderful sister-in-law steps forward to become a donor, completes the required testing and schedules August 8th as the transplant date. Antigen matches are big in kidney transplant. Maura’s sister in law is a 1 in 6 antigen match—not bad. Meredith, too, steps forward, despite the fact that Maura already has a donor. Her tests show she is a 4 out of 6 antigen match. Wow.
  5. One week before Maura’s sis-in-law is scheduled to donate her kidney, all parties agree that Meredith’s kidney is the best fit. On August 8, Meredith and Maura become not only band mates but also “bean sisters.” Maura has a wonderfully written blog, The Bean in My Side, that chronicles her journey of receiving an amazing gift. Read it.

A few weeks ago, the bean sisters, along with the rest of the band, performed on stage for the first time since the transplant. Here’s a taste of their performance that night at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, OH.

I’ve had to leave out so many fabulous details, but you get the gist—life, like accordion music, is beautiful and full of unexpected gifts.

If you are curious about organ donation or living donation, in particular, you can check out these websites to learn more:

Donate Life America

Transplant Living

Enjoy these pics of the bean sisters as well as some additional YouTube links of their performances. Here’s a video from their first CD released in July 2012.


And here is Maura singing solo.

I really really like Maura’s voice and her songs and I’m delighted that Meredith’s healthy and strong kidney will allow her to write many more. Thanks Meredith. You rule…but then again, accordion players always do.



6 thoughts on “She’s not just the heart of the band—she’s the kidney, too.

  1. Love of music once again bridges the gap…between Richmond and Cleveland and life over death…Beautiful!

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