December 6, 2012

Living Donors

Education of living donors is why Rita Morehead discussed her life-changing decision

by Amie Sites

— It’s not uncommon for Rita and Kent Morehead, Logansport, to give during the holidays. They have helped families in need, volunteered time and organized boxes to be sent from their church.

This holiday season, however, Rita decided to give her kidney to her mother, Velma Austin.

Although Rita was reluctant to she her story, she agreed to be interviewed so others might be willing to make similar decisions.

Rita’s mother, who has had kidney problems her entire life, has had one kidney for the last 30 years. In August, she received a cadaver kidney transplant. After the transplant didn’t take, Rita started seriously considering being a donor for her 71-year-old mother.

“Maybe there are people who would consider being living donors if they knew more about it,” Rita said. She also found out after donating, if she were to ever need a kidney, she would be able to bypass the waiting list because of her donation.

“They don’t want to make a healthy person sick,” Rita said. “They want to make a sick person healthy.”

Kent said he wanted people to know this was a possibility.

“I think people should know there are people like her out there, who are willing to give part of her to give a life,” Kent said.  “We’re showing people you don’t have to be dead to be a donor.”

Rita was in Dallas, where her mother lives, last week for testing to find if she was healthy enough to function with one kidney.

After testing, the 26-year veteran of the U.S. Postal Service in Logansport found she was a healthy match and will be having the transplant in the near future.

“For Christmas, I’m giving my mother a kidney,” Rita said.

Rita said she thought a lot about donating.

“I was apprehensive in the beginning, but the more I prayed about it, the more I wondered what there was to fear,” Rita said. “I have five grandchildren and I wanted to be able to participate in their life.”

Rita said, through education, she felt great peace about the process.

She said they also felt a great relief when they found out they are receiving a Living Donor Grant, a grant that will help pay for travel expenses and will reimburse expenses used while traveling to tests in Dallas.

Rita will spend two to four days in the hospital, then will stay in an apartment next to the hospital for between 10 days and two weeks. Doctors told her not to expect to be back at work for 4 to 6 weeks and not to expect full health for about six months.

She said another reason she decided to donate was because she wants her mother, who is healthy and still working full time, to live well.

“I’m not knocking dialysis, but because of the limits dialysis causes, it’s not truly living. Quality of life is a huge part of living,” Rita said. “I want more for my mother. I want her to be able to see her grandchildren at Christmas.”

Rita has two daughters, Laura and Stephanie, one stepson, Kyle, and five grandchildren.

With a new kidney, there is the possibility her mother’s kidney could start working better, Rita said.

“My mother is relieved about the whole thing,” Rita said. “She had made the decision that she wasn’t going to have another cadaver transplant. I’m going to have a life-changing experience.”

Rita attends Pisgah Christian Church and noted that her church family has been a huge support system.

“Until this happened, I didn’t know it was possible to be a living donor,” Kent said. “I’m sure there are a lot of people who don’t know about it.”

Amie Sites is a reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5150 or