Stories of Hope

Lita, liver recipient

NMDS Dr. Lita Matthews -- living liver recipient - female - Native, Pueblo

Lita has always been proud of her heritage and has spent the majority of her life involved in Native American culture. She is co-founder of one of the largest events held in New Mexico, the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow.

In 2008, just three days before the start of the 25th annual Gathering of Nations, Lita was rushed to an Albuquerque hospital. There she was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, the result of a blood transfusion she had received more than 30 years prior. Lita responded well to treatment, which she believes is a direct result of her daily exercise program and competitive dancing at many powwows.

Unfortunately, two years later, Lita was told that cancer had developed in her liver. A liver transplant was her only chance for survival; and Lita was placed on the national transplant waiting list. While she waited, Lita decided to make her story public within her Native American community. In addition to educating others about organ, eye and tissue donation, it inspired several people to volunteer to donate a part of their livers to help save her life.

After just a few months, at the start of the 2010 Gathering of Nations, Lita and her family received a call informing them that one of the potential living donors was a match. That May, she received her lifesaving liver transplant from a living donor, her long-time friend Beverly.

With the transplant, Lita has been able to continue to fill her life with good music, powwows, dancing and the Gathering of Nations. She encourages everyone to consider signing up to be a donor. “If it was not for the generosity of a great and wonderful individual who shared her liver with me, I may not be alive today.” Lita says. “Becoming a donor helps keep the circle unbroken and the celebration of life going.”