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Three different people living in one local woman’s body

By Staff | Aug 20, 2017

Glenda Hoffmann holds two pillows, one for each transplant she has received in her life.

If you were paying attention to the Aug. 7 edition of the Faribault County Register, you may have noticed a small advertisement of thanks from a woman by the name of Glenda Hoffmann.

“I would like to thank everyone for the cards, greetings and prayers for me during my transplant. I truly felt surrounded by your support. A special thank you to my donor, Erin, for her generous gift. It’s wonderful to live in such a caring community.”

This little ad left some curious. Transplant? Who is Erin? Come to find out Erin Roiger was Hoffmann’s kidney donor. And this kidney transplant came 20 years after a heart transplant for Hoffmann.

“Someone had to die in order for me to live.”

Those were Hoffmann’s words in 1997 when she struggled with the thought of receiving a heart transplant at the age of 42.

“I went to my pastor about it, I felt such mixed feelings with it. And he gave me very wise advise,” she says. “He told me to accept it freely for it was the greatest gift I could receive from another person. The gift of life.”

Hoffmann, who grew up in Winnebago and taught at Blue Earth Area and Delavan schools for 29 years as a Title I teacher, says the cause of the congestive heart failure she had was given an unknown cause. But due to the congestive heart failure, Hoffmann experienced restrictive cardiomyopathy and her heart became enlarged.

“I was short of breath, nauseous, and I just couldn’t function right,” says Hoffmann of what she remembers from her experience. “And after an angiogram, I was given medicine to hopefully improve the situation and it was effective for a while.”

June of that year, Hoffmann was placed on the donation list and by Sept. 19, her condition worsened, but thankfully, she did not have to wait long to receive her donor’s vital organ.

“I was what they call in stage one failure and was in the hospital. I only had to wait one month and I am very grateful to that family’s loved one who gave me the gift of life.”

Just seven months after her open-heart transplant, Hoffmann was back to work.

“There was no major rejection from the transplant, which I am truly grateful for,” she says. And, according to the Mayo Clinic, about 10 percent of heart transplant recipients still have some sign of rejection that need treatment during the first year after transplantation.

With frequent biopsies and check ups and a number of immunosuppressant medications to not only suppress any type of rejection, but also to help boost her immune system, Hoffmann says she had 16 years of a good healthy heart and body.

However, in 2013, because of Hoffman’s two decades of heavy medications to keep her heart in working condition, her kidney began to deteriorate from overexertion and she was once again put onto a donor list.

This transplant list was not as promising as her heart. Hoffmann waited and waited.

She even had two friends step up to the plate to see if they could be donors for her, but to no avail. They did not match.

Finally, Hoffmann found a match in Erin Roiger, her husband, Tom’s nephew’s wife. No blood relation at all, just a happenstance of the universe that they matched.

Interestingly enough, though Roiger had her kidney removed for the transplant, Hoffmann actually kept both of her kidneys as well as Roiger’s.

Yes, she has three kidneys.

“It’s just plumbing,” laughs Hoffmann. She explains her new kidney is treated as an extra filtration for the medicines she continues to take. “I call my kidney little Erin now, and little Erin is doing great. I am so thankful to Erin for what she’s done for me.”

And Hoffmann says being registered as a donor can do so much for so many people.?She shares that there are close to 80,000 people on the waiting list for organs, and that number has nearly doubled in the last 10 years. Hoffmann also notes eight people can benefit from just one person’s designation of being an organ donor.

“There are huge misconceptions about the treatment with a loved one’s organs, and those are simply not true. Dignity is always number one when organ donation occurs,” says Hoffmann.

From hearts, to eyes, to kidneys, many organs can be donated when a loved one passes away, and if it weren’t for those selfless donors, Hoffmann says she would not be here to say thank you.