Super Sisters. An act of courage from one hero to another
Most of us know the benefits of maintaining a positive attitude from day to day. But for Janie Goossen, a positive attitude is what saved her life and lifts her beyond the daily afflictions she views as simple ‘obstacles.’ A diabetic since she was five years old, Goossen has suffered kidney failure, two heart attacks, three stokes and a quadruple bypass.
Think she’s ready to give up? Not a chance! This feisty blonde, who holds a key position at CBS Diversity in Los Angeles, has more life running through her veins than a typical healthy teen. Her secret? “It’s all a matter of outlook,” she revealed.
With her sister Phyllis Imboden at her side, Goossen and Imboden recount the events that led to the surgery that changed their lives and their relationship entirely.
“Because Janie had juvenile onset diabetes, we all sacrificed in different ways,” Imboden said, “so we all learned to care.” Close in age, the nurturing really started when the siblings were toddlers. “Our goal was always to be sure that Janie didn’t have a diabetic reaction,” Imboden said, “so all eight kids in the family always knew when to get orange juice or Karo syrup to her really fast.”
“But because I’ve been a diabetic since I was five years old, I always felt normal,” Goossen said, “I didn’t realize that I was any different than the others.” The only significant recollection of her condition was that she knew she was unable to have sugar like the other kids and people always oddly watched out for her.
In her early 30s Goossen’s condition worsened and she had to go on dialysis. To most, this is a significant setback. To Goossen, “Well, I went three times a week for four hours at a time,” she said, “so I made the best of it, and just brought in my work.”
Imboden escorted Goossen to a doctor’s appointment about nine months into her treatment, where she encountered a direct and shocking inquiry from the physician: “Your sister’s going to die, can she have one of your kidneys?”
“I’m a person of faith, so my first reaction was, ‘I will not let fear be a part of this equation,’” Imboden said, “so I just put myself in God’s hands and I knew that everything would be okay. I just knew it was the right thing to do.”
After a myriad of tests and procedures, Imboden was discovered to be a perfect match for the transplant. In a gesture that surpasses the most generous endowment, Imboden gave her sister one of her kidneys.
Twin brothers at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Los Angeles conducted the surgery. Dr. Rafael Mendez took out Imboden’s kidney and Dr. Robert Mendez transplanted it into Goossen’s body. For Imboden, the cut was backbone to bellybutton, a much more uncomfortable surgery for her than for the happy recipient. Goossen was sent home just nine days after surgery on a few medications. And though the recuperation period lasted about 6 weeks, her body to date has had no rejection incidents.
The milestone surgery has not changed the fact that Goossen is a severe diabetic. The nature of the disease is that it wants to continue to erode her organs. “But I’m not going to let that happen,” Goossen announced. “I constantly test myself and I take very good care of my health.”
Most women would consider Goossen’s predicament less than fortunate. But she believes that she’s immeasurably blessed. “Yes, I have to test my blood constantly,” she said, “and yes, I take injections to boost my red blood cells daily, but I have so much to be thankful for.”
What is her drive to survive? An unceasing optimistic outlook and a passion for life.
Goossen has never once wished to give up; she has never wanted to exchange her life for that of another. Her life is an inspiration that calls all women to a higher standard in their quest for a meaningful and purpose-driven life. And for her equally inspiring sister, Imboden believes that the love that the two share as siblings surpasses any pain or inconvenience she could have experienced. “She’s not just my sister, she’s Janie.”