Gathering of Nations encouraging organ donor registration

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – While each year the Gathering of Nations brings together hundreds of artists, dancers, and drummers, many would say Dr. Lita Mathews is the event’s heartbeat.

“You think about the absence of her within our community, and this event wouldn’t occur,” said Celina Espinoza, the External Affairs director for New Mexico Donor Services.

This year marks 40 years since Dr. Mathews and her husband founded the event, but it also marks 12 years since Mathews got a new liver and a second chance at life.

“I had experimental treatments, I went through a lot trying to get to a place where they could do the transplant, and that was a hard road, but what really what kept me going are the powwow people,” she said. “They heard about what was going on with me. They kept me in their prayers and in their ceremonies throughout.”

Renee Roybal is a Donate Life Ambassador at Gathering of Nations and a heart recipient. Her donor, an eleven-year-old girl.

“I am young at heart and so grateful every day for the donation,” she said.

According to New Mexico Donor Services, 1 out of every 5 New Mexicans waiting for a life-saving transplant is Native American.

“Native Americans suffer a lot with diabetes and a lot of kidney transplantation needs,” Roybal told KOB 4, which is why she and Dr. Mathews are using the Gathering of Nations platform to educate and encourage their people to register to become donor heroes.

“Where else would I be if it wasn’t for the people that make this decision on their own, or by family members? This is a very giving thing, and I think that’s Native Americans, we are giving people,” Roybal said. “I have a little hard on my license also. So, I’m ready to do my part.”

“I think that we’re going to reach a lot of people,” Mathews said.

The Gathering of Nations runs through Saturday night. Click here for more information on the schedule and tickets.