Transplants Gave Him his ‘Greatest Blessings’
You don’t have to persuade Joleen Hoff about the importance of kidney transplants. Without her first husband’s two transplants, he would never have seen his daughter and then his three granddaughters.
“Transplantation allowed Greg the greatest blessings in his life— to be a father and a grandfather,” Joleen said. “He got his whole life back.”
Joleen will lead a team at the annual Transplant 5K Run/Walk on Sept. 19 in Springfield in memory of Greg Oest, who died May 15, 2012, while on the transplant list for a third kidney. The couple were high-school sweethearts who had been married for 33 years.
Greg had participated in the transplant 5K, which benefits The Alan G. Birtch, MD, Center for Transplant Services at Memorial, as his health allowed. Dr. Birtch performed Greg’s first transplant at Memorial Medical Center.
After Greg passed away, Joleen said she wanted “to do something happy in his memory,” so she formed the team for the transplant walks. Greg “was not about being sick,” she said. “He was about being alive and focusing on all the blessings he had.”
Her teams have ranged from 16 to 26 participants, and they have twice won the event’s award for raising the most money. Joleen remarried about 18 months ago; her husband, Charlie Hoff, has been a big supporter of the transplant 5K.
“He (Charlie) is a huge advocate in hopes it can benefit our granddaughters since Greg’s kidney disease is hereditary,” Joleen said. Greg had Alport syndrome, “an inherited disease that primarily affects the … tiny tufts of capillaries in the kidneys that filter wastes from the blood,” according to the National Kidney Foundation.
Greg had been sick as a child and had hearing loss in the first grade, a common occurrence for people with Alport syndrome. He worked as a farmer with his father in Mason County. Not long after Greg and Joleen were married, his kidneys started to fail. He received his first kidney from his father in 1983; the kidney lasted 24 years.
The couple were told they would never have children, but their daughter, Tonya, was born in May 1985. She lives in Havana and has three daughters. “She was our miracle baby.”
Greg’s friends volunteered to be tested as kidney donors for his second transplant. He had been on the list for six months when Joleen learned that she was a match. He received her kidney in 2007, and it lasted for about five years. He was on the transplant list again for about 14 months when he died— 10 days after his youngest granddaughter’s first birthday.
“I always believed that God has a plan for us,” Joleen said. “He had to make me exactly that way so I could give him my kidney.”
Memorial’s Transplant 5K Run/Walk
Memorial Medical Center’s 11th annual 5K Transplant Run/Walk to benefit kidney and pancreas transplant patients will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, in Washington Park in Springfield.
Registration is open online at MemorialTransplantServices.com through Sept. 17 or participants can print and mail in a registration form. Participants can also register on the day of the event beginning at 8 a.m.
Registration fees are $25 for adults and $15 for 12-year-olds and younger. Participants will meet at the picnic shelter area near the tennis courts and playground. Registration increases by $5 per person on the day of the event.
For more information, call Memorial’s Transplant Services at 217-757-7835.