Organ donation important to local family

BELPRE – Rob Morehead has struggled with the confines of his body for many years.

Diagnosed with diabetes at 2 1/2 years old, the Belpre resident is no stranger to a life of exercise, staying in shape and understanding what it means to be patient.

“There’s several days I can’t leave the house,” he said. “Going through three hours of dialysis (has been compared to) running a full marathon.”

On a good day Morehead looks to be in perfect shape, but when he is not feeling well he has to lie in bed from fatigue.

“The last three weeks I’ve been in bed, I haven’t done anything,” Morehead said.

His body quit making red blood cells because he has had to be given so much blood through blood transfusions. Every time someone has a blood transfusion the number of antibodies in his or her body increases.

“Any type of bacteria or tissue in that person goes into my blood and adds antibodies,” Morehead said.

He is waiting for a kidney and pancreas transplant, but there is a problem.

“For someone to be a match with me it’s very, very, very rare,” he said.

Morehead’s plight and need for a kidney and pancreas transplant have the attention of his mother, girlfriend, family, friends and Parkersburg City Councilman John Rockhold.

Morehead’s girlfriend, Sara Dillon, is going through the process to determine if she can donate an organ to Morehead or someone else in need.

Resa Vavra, of Belpre, discovered the need for living organ donations after being friends and in contact with Morehead’s mother, Vicki Parrish.

Parrish, a fitness expert and personal trainer, said her son had a kidney transplant in 2002 that contributed to auto-immune disease, destroying his kidney function and necessitating the need for a second transplant.

“Rob goes through dialysis three times a week (504 hours a year for five years) and is on a host of drugs to keep his bodily functions in check,” Parrish said. “We remain hopeful that a match will become available soon.”

For Morehead, a kidney transplant would provide freedom from dialysis and allow him to live longer, with a higher quality of life.

“This is something (others) can relate to,” Vavra said. “I’ve always been a donor. I selected to be one on my driver’s license. I found out there was a need so I thought I’d be tested to see if I could possibly be a living donor as well.”

Vavra said she was not a match to help Morehead with his kidney and pancreas transplant but intends on helping others. She and the others signed up to be living donors with the assistance of medical professionals at the University of Cincinnati.

“I don’t know if people know about the need (for living organ donation),” said Rockhold. “The opportunity is there; people need help.”

Rockhold said he became passionate about raising awareness for organ and tissue donations after learning the majority of Americans, about 85 percent, support organ donation yet fewer than half of them choose donations when a loved one passes away.

A single donor can save the lives of eight people and improve the lives of up to 50 more individuals by donating vital organs like the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas, small bowel and tissue, including corneas, fascia, skin, veins and heart valves.

“To help solve the growing need for organ and tissue donations I believe it is essential for families to have a conversation about organ donation; to make his or her wishes clearly known,” Rockhold said of donating after death.

Morehead needs a kidney and pancreas transplant from a living person.

It’s a medical miracle Morehead has made it this long, because what has been helping him has also been hurting him, Rockhold said.

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, more than 108,000 people nationwide are awaiting a transplant, including hundreds from West Virginia and Ohio. About 5,800 after-death organ donors were registered, studies showed.

“There were 27 people, from not just here, I’m the only one around here, but there were 27 people at the University of Cincinnati going through what I’m going through,” Morehead said.

Statistics show the need for transplants continues to outgrow the number of available donors at an alarming rate. Relatives of those who are in need of an organ are the best matches, although being a relative does not automatically make someone a match.

The University of Cincinnati Medical Center’s Cincinnati Transplant Center encourages live donation when appropriate and dedicates resources to educating people that organ donation saves lives, according to the university health website at www.universityhospital.uchealth.com.

For more information on becoming a donor through the UC program contact Sara Rhoten at (513) 584-5573.

Information to become a donor also is available through Lifeline of Ohio Organ Procurement. Camden Clark Medical Center has participated in the national campaign for several years, officials said.

Statistics show more than 18 people die every day waiting on a healthy organ.