IU Health University Hospital

More than 30 years post transplant - Patient’s secret for best life: ‘personality’

Patient Story

Her accent is distinct; her tea is sweet, and Blanca Goodwin’s personality is packed full of eight decades of life.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

Her daughter doesn’t mince words when she describes Blanca Goodwin: “You want an opinion, just ask her,” said Deb Goodwin. “Mom’s always been frank and opinionated.”

As Blanca Goodwin stirs several packets of sugar into her hot tea, she talks about that personality that has brought her to this stage of her life. Consider that she emigrated from Honduras in her 20s, went to work in a factory, married, divorced and raised two children. She also had a kidney transplant more than 30 years ago.

The seventh of nine children, Goodwin was raised on a dairy farm in Honduras, often requiring a 3 a.m. wake up call to help with milking more than 20 cows.

“It was in a rural area with dirt roads. I’d get up in the morning and water the street to keep the dust down. Being poor isn’t a disgrace; being filthy is a disgrace,” said Goodwin, who lives in Bloomington. She moved to Indiana when her brother was in a car accident and needed special treatment to help restore his eyesight. She never left.

She spent years caring for her nieces and nephews, worked for a time at the cafeteria at IU Health Bloomington and eventually for RCA Corporation, electronics factory.

It was a June wedding of a friend that introduced her to her future husband.

“I don’t like summer weddings. It’s too hot to get married, but my sister-in-law’s mom insisted I go. She took off her necklace, put it around my neck and pushed me out the door,” said Goodwin. It was on that June day that the best man at the wedding noticed Goodwin, called her a few days later and asked her out.

They dated for two years, married, and divorced when their daughter was six and their son was five. Deb Goodwin has worked for IU Health for 10 years as a nurse with Southern Indiana Cardiology.

She shakes her head often as her mother talks about her life – sometimes asking her to clarify the details. At 80, Blanca Goodwin is one of seven siblings still living. She’s a woman who turned her living room into a botanical garden – in summer she planted; in winter she brought the pots indoors. She’s also a woman who still carries her engagement picture in her wallet along with a wedding photo because she says it includes her family members.

These days her life is filled with sing-a-longs, cooking, crafts, and Bingo.

“I’m not a lazy bone. I like to stay active,” says Goodwin. “She was recently yelling out Bingo numbers in her sleep,” adds her daughter.

For the most part of her life, Goodwin was healthy. Once in awhile she’ll squeeze her right hand and complain that “Arthur is acting up,” but otherwise she says she didn’t even get sick during her pregnancies. She loved to travel and took annual trips back to Honduras until the early 1980s.

“I was diagnosed with lupus and was at the hospital and didn’t even know what it was. I thought ‘lupus’ was the name of the male nurse,” said Goodwin. “But then I’d never heard a guy named ‘lupus’ either.” She giggles and then talks about getting a kidney transplant as if she’s talking about making her special flour tortillas or Arroz con Pollo.

“I was on dialysis four times a day every day until I got my transplant at IU Health University Hospital in 1986,” said Goodwin. “She was originally told she might keep the kidney for about 15 years. She's is a remarkable case since she's had such longevity,” added her daughter. Her nephrologist IU Health’s Dr. Frank Boateng thinks it was just the perfect case - she had such a healthy lifestyle to begin with and her donor kidney was from a healthy 13-year-old.”

Goodwin also credits her good health with a bubbly personality.

As she applies a fresh coat of pink lipstick and prepares to pose for a picture Goodwin, who is soon to turn 81, says: “It’s all about attitude. I saw patients in the hospital who didn’t do well because they weren’t upbeat and determined. I’ve got a new kidney and it’s mine to have and to hold.”

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