Brenda E. Cortez

Brenda is a living kidney donor and children’s book author, who has a passion for helping others. She was inspired to write her first book, My Mom is Having Surgery, after her daughter centered her college entrance essay around Brenda’s donation and the inspiration she felt from it. Brenda is now a strong advocate for living donation awareness. Because of this advocacy and her passion for helping others, Brenda came up with the slogan, HOWL: Help Others with Love. Learn more about HOWL, and Brenda’s organ donation focused children’s books below.

School Visit Contest

The winners of our school visit contest are Honor Elementary School in Neosho, Wisconsin and Ms. Baumann’s fourth grade class at Olympia Brown Elementary School in Racine, Wisconsin.  Brenda visited Honor Elementary on Monday, November 19, and Ms. Baumann’s class on Wednesday, November 21.

Howl Helps Others

Come along with Howl the Owl and his animal friends, as they see firsthand how kindness and helping others is always the best option. Meet and autistic bunny who struggles to make friends, and a bully raccoon who isn’t very nice to others. They each realize the benefits of kindness in different ways and Howl and his friends Help Others With Love!


Howl Helps Others Book-Quantity

HOWL the Owl

Howl the Owl is a 7″ plush owl. Howl the Owl makes a great gift for all ages while helping spread the message of HOWL™ (Help Others With Love)!

Plush Howl -Quantity

HOWL the OWL Organ Donation Series: Book 1

Howl Gets a Heart

Howl loves to help others and his parents named him Howl because it stands for Help Others With Love™! Each story is meant to help children who are affected by organ donation and transplant.

In the first story, Howl Gets a Heart, he learns firsthand about helping others as he is given the gift of life with a heart transplant. Howl’s experience can help other children understand being sick, needing a transplant, and getting that life-saving organ.

In the second story, Howl Helps Bella, Howl’s best friend Bella is sad because her daddy just died. Her mom explains the one thing that brings her comfort is knowing he was an organ donor, and he helped to save other lives. Howl helps Bella understand that her daddy gave the gift of life and helped others. Bella hopes to meet the people her daddy saved someday, but for now Howl gives her his favorite stuffed animal to hug and remind her of her dad. This story is dedicated to Jessica and Isabella Spitzer, in memory of Christopher Spitzer. This book will hopefully be released end of 2017.

The third story is Howl Learns about Dialysis. In this story, Howl’s Grandma is waiting for a kidney and has been on dialysis for a few years. He learns how dialysis keeps her alive. She has already received the gift of life with a liver transplant, but now she also is in need of a kidney.

Kids can read the Howl stories and hug their own plush Howl to bring them comfort!

$0.50 from every book sold will go to Donate Life America.

Read this testimony from someone who recently received their very own Howl the Owl:

“When we got home from the hospital we had a package waiting for us. The kids opened it and LOVE it. It truly made our day! Someone who I have never met, but is a member at our old church sent us a children’s book about organ donation along with tattoos and a stuffed animal. We love it! I read the book to the kids and all of them continued to say, “oh, that sounds like us, like what our family went through.”

Howl Heart Book-Quantity


Howl The Owl Organ Donation Series: Book 2

Howl Helps Bella

Howl Helps Bella Book-Quantity

Available Now!

Join Howl as he helps his best friend Bella through a difficult time, while learning what it means to be an organ donor. The message of Help Others With Love (HOWL) shines through in this story about helping a friend, and the selfless act of a real-life superhero.

 My Mom is Having Surgery – A Kidney Story

My Mom is Having Surgery

“Kailey is worried and scared because her mom is about to have surgery. Come join Kailey in her journey where she finds out if surgery is safe, and how her mom gives a special gift of saving another mom’s life!”

One dollar from every book sold will go to Donate Life America.

Kidney book -Quantity

Bundle Deal

Purchase all four of Brenda’s books and a plush Howl for just $50 (with free shipping)!




Brenda Cortez lives in Franklin, Wisconsin with her husband Shawn and their two dogs. They have two grown children, Kailey and Kyle. At the time of Brenda’s kidney donation in 2005, when My Mom Is Having Surgery took place, Kailey was in the fifth grade, and Kyle in second grade. Brenda was inspired to write her book after Kailey centered her college entrance essay around Brenda’s donation and the inspiration she felt from it. Brenda is now a strong advocate for living organ donation awareness.  Because of this advocacy and her passion for helping others, she came up with the HOWL slogan (Help Others With Love) and the idea of Howl the Owl came to life.


“What an important story to tell.  I, myself, have donated stem cells to help cure my brother’s cancer and when my father unexpectedly passed away he also donated his body to help others.  I think that stories about organ donation are not shared nearly enough.  I think that this is a worth while story to be shared with many other people across all platforms.  I found it to be heartwarming and to capture the best part of humanity…the giving spirit!  4.5 stars” – Mrs. Mommy Booknerd (Click here for more information)

“My Mom Is Having Surgery” is a child -friendly true story about a woman’s donation of a kidney to another mom, told from the viewpoint of her daughter, Kailey. In explaining her choice to her daughter who is worried and fearful for her, the kidney donor explained: “I know in my heart I am meant to do this, and I want to help someone by doing what I hope someone would do for me or my family.” Kailey is reassured by her mother’s words plus the information that her doctors are especially trained, highly competent medical professionals, whose job it is to take excellent care of her and restore her to health without excessive pain. Kailey and her brother Kyle are further comforted by their Grandmother and Father during her mother’s surgery and recovery at the hospital. After the surgery, her mom is taken to a recovery room, then to her hospital room where Kailey and Kyle can visit. They are surprised to see that her mom is still sleeping, but her nurse explained that this is quite normal, and that her mom will need to rest and recover and sleep a lot in the next few weeks to heal from the kidney surgery. Finally Kailey’s mom is ready to come home after four days in the hospital. Kailey and Kyle understand they will need to do more chores at home and help her mom during her home recovery from the kidney removal, which is considered major surgery. Although it was scary for the children, they realized that their mom had done a truly great thing in donating her kidney to another mom of a friend of theirs. They were proud of their mom for being a hero. “My Mom Is Having Surgery: A Kidney Story” is an excellent example of medical biography for juveniles, with good information and realistic reassurance for children facing a loved one’s major surgery. It should be noted that a donation of, $1 per book sold goes to Donate Life America, an organization which increases awareness for organ donation.” – (Click here for more information)


“The story behind my story started back in September of 2004. I was volunteering at my children’s school, which is also connected to our church, St. Jacobi Lutheran. I was setting up a fundraising event for the school and needed other parents to help unload a truck of food being delivered. One of the mom’s I asked was Pam. I was acquainted with Pam since our kids were in the second and fifth grade together. Pam said she could help that time, but would not be able to after that due to the fact that she was getting a fistula implanted in her arm to begin dialysis. Pam told me her kidneys were failing (only working at 17%) due to a disease she’s had for many years. I asked Pam what was required to be a living kidney donor. She said she needed someone with O blood type since she has O+ blood. I told her I have O- blood type, and asked what I needed to do to get tested. It was at the point that I knew in my heart that I would be a match for Pam. Within a month, I was giving 13 tubes of blood for testing, and then took the long Q&A test to make sure I was mentally competent to give away a living part of myself. By the end of November, we found out I was officially a match. A month later I underwent a complete physical, which included a CT scan to be sure I indeed had two kidneys and where they were located. I passed all the tests and it was decided I could donate my left kidney, which is the preferred one to take due to easier disconnection. I was also going to be one of the first at our hospital (Froedert in Milwaukee, WI) to have the surgery performed laparoscopically. Our surgery was performed on Wednesday, March 23, 2005. I went home four days later on Easter Sunday. During the few months prior to the transplant, our church held some fundraisers for Pam and myself to help with medical costs for Pam, and help me with lost wages. Pam’s insurance covered my part of the surgery.” – Brenda Cortez, Author


“Nevada Donor Network was honored to offer HOWL THE OWL stories to more than a hundred donor families with young children who attended our Donor Remembrance Ceremony this year. Meeting the author and taking home a plush HOWL along with the book made the experience extra special for our young guests. We extend our most sincere thanks to Brenda and HOWL for being in attendance at the event and offering their stories of hope, strength, and life to the youngest family members of courageous donor heroes. We plan to offer these books full of love for many years to come and are actively looking into other opportunities to share HOWL’s stories.’

– Kelli Little, Community Services Supervisor, Nevada Donor Network

“Brenda’s book has been a wonderful tool for our transplant center to provide to potential donors who have young children. Many children have concerns when they learn that their parent will be going into surgery. Brenda’s book helps explain the process so that children know what to expect, alleviates their fears, and encourages them to be proud of their parent for giving the gift of life to someone else in need.”

Allison Stephans, MSW, APSW, Abdominal Transplant Social Worker

“I really enjoyed Brenda’s book. Last year my mom also donated a kidney and I had mixed emotions as well, so reading her book really helped me understand the process and know what to expect. It was great! My own kids thought it was neat there was a book about donating a kidney. It helped them understand it better too.”

Michele Wesner, Living Donor Family Member, UW Hospital


New: October 2018 interview on 103.7 Kiss FM with Alley about Howl Helps Others, HOWL the Owl, kindness, bullying prevention month and organ donation. Click here to listen to the radio interview.

Interview at the 2018 Donate Life Transplant Games in Salt Lake City.

March 2018 appearance on “The Morning Blend”. Click here to watch the video segment.

March 2017 appearance on “The Morning Blend”. Click here to watch the video segment.


Hire Brenda to present her books, organ donation, her HOWL message, and/or literacy to your school or group.

$100/hour assembly

$250/half day

$400/whole day

*Talk to Brenda about a fee discount for author visits when a bulk book order is placed.


April 19, 2018 – Wisconsin School Nurses Association Annual Conference

April 21, 2018 – Living Donor Guinness World Record Attempt, Chicago, IL

April 26, 2018 – STEAM day, Brown Deer Elementary School

August 2-7, 2018 – Donate Life Transplant Games of America, Salt Lake City, UT

November 15, 2018, 9:30am-10:30am: “Howl Helps Others” book reading and activity, Waterford Public Library

Monday, November 19: Author visit to Honor Elementary and Honor Intermediate School, Neosho, WI. Grades 4K-4, and 5-7

Wednesday, November 21: Olympia Brown Elementary School, Racine WI, Grade 4


Indian Community School
Breakfast with Santa, Craft/Vendor Fair
Saturday, December 8, 8:00am – 1:00pm
10405 W Saint Martins Rd, Franklin Wisconsin


Brenda Cortez with fellow Donate Life Supporting Author, Robert Horsey. Click here to learn more about Robert’s novel, Gifted.


For updates and information, please like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter.

Contact information: mymomishavingsurgery [at] gmail [dot] com 

Registration takes less than a minute.

Still have questions?