If you’ve gone to Gathering of Nations, then you are definitely familiar with the lady pictured above. Dr. Lita Mathews is the co-founder of one of the largest pow wows in North America and you may have seen her judging the Long Hair contest there. The reason she enjoys putting on this special contest each year is because her father loved her beautiful long hair and said she should never cut it. However she had developed some serious health issues that caused her to lose her hair.
As the story goes, just three days before the start of the 25th annual Gathering of Nations, she was rushed to an Albuquerque hospital. It wasn’t until later that she found out just how close she was to dying. On January 8, 2010, Lita and her family were told that she would need a liver transplant, a small cancer had developed in her liver.
At the start of the 2010 Gathering of Nations, Lita and her family received a call informing them that the medical exams on the potential living donor had all gone well, the date for her transplant was set. On May 28, 2010, she received her life-saving liver transplant from a living donor, a long-time friend, Beverly.
With this transplant, Lita is able to fill her life with good music, powwows, dancing and the Gathering of Nations. She and her family continue to thank everyone who have sent good feelings, prayers and financial help. Lita is encouraging everyone to consider signing up to be an organ donor. She says that if it was not for the generosity of a great and wonderful individual who shared her liver with her, she may not be alive today. Becoming an organ donor helps keep the circle unbroken and the celebration of life going.
Organ donation is even more of an issue in Native communities, because in order for an organ transplant to be successful, it has to be a good match. There aren’t as many Native Americans donating because folks are still hesitant to participate due to traditional and cultural beliefs, but the tide may be turning with more success stories like Dr. Lita’s. I know we are a generous people and would like to help our people in any way we can. Organ donation can be just one of the many ways we can.
To read more about organ donation, you can visit www.donatelifenm.org, who shared Dr. Lita’s story.