TODAY | January 03, 2012
>>> medicine." a popular author's brush with poisonous mushroom that nearly killed him and his wife. nbc's keith miller has the details.
>> reporter: telling a gut-wrenching story is what nick evans does as a novelest. the author of the best selling " horse whisperer " wrote millions writing family drama .
>> come over here and sit next to me.
>> reporter: three years ago his family's life took a dramatic turn and he became a character right out of one of his books.
>> it was a beautiful day .
>> reporter: he'd gone for an idyllic walk in the beautiful scottish countryside and picked wild mushrooms, later served them for dinner, sauteed with butter and parsley with his wife and in-laws.
>> very, very sick and saw it said deadly poisonous.
>> reporter: legal web capped mushrooms, the mushrooms almost killed him.
>> it was the thought of my children that kept me alive actually. i'd much rather have been dead.
>> reporter: your deal sounds much like your novels, guilt, redemption, got a bit of tragedy.
>> it was a big journey, and to begin with, we were really lucky to survive this, you know, these mushrooms that we ate should have killed us.
>> reporter: the poison led to kidney failure , dialysis is the only thing that kept them alive. evan's daughter lauren, now 29, offered her kidney but he refused.
>> i just thought i can't do this, because your every instinct as a parent is to protect your child from any kind of risk.
>> i understood it was a very difficult decision for dad.
>> reporter: as his health failed and options running out, evans this summer finally accepted a transplant from lauren. she calls sometimes to ask how her kidney is doing.
>> it's something that's unspoken really between us , you know. it's too much to say thank you for. it's too much to really talk about it, but i think quietly it's bonded us in a way that is deeper than we could have ever imagined.
>> reporter: but like an evans novel, there are twists to this tale. his wife, charlotte, and her brother, are still waiting for transplants. kidney dialysis two times a week keeps charlotte alive.
>> how was it?
>> hard, i came off feeling dizzy and weird.
>> left their young son with some scary memories.
>> they put a plastic tube into your neck.
>> yes, it was pretty grim.
>> we looked like zombies.
>> the experience, says evans , is too raw to work into a new novel.
>> one day maybe, keith, maybe.
>> reporter: the family has set up a charity, give a kidney, one's enough, to help others suffering from kidney failure . along with the guilt and pain, evans says he's also discovered humanity and generosity, and a family bond now unbreakable. as a father, he says --
>> she has given me my life back.
>> reporter: as a novelist, he says i've taken extreme research to rather extreme degrees. keith miller , nbc news, england.
>> the health battles didn't keep evans from writing his latest book called "the brave" and it's now out in paperbook -- paperback, excuse me.