On Saturday night, Robert (Bobby) Morton, 35, received a kidney transplant at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
Morton was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure (kidney failure) on Nov. 15, 2015. He said he’s taken his diagnosis as serious as he would his job.
“I’m very competitive. My boys from high school and I would compete to see who could eat a bowl of cereal the fastest,” Morton said. “We push each other to stay young and fit. I looked at my diagnosis like a walk in the park.”
Morton is doing well after the transplant. He is expected to be released from the hospital Thursday.
Morton’s illness is linked to high blood pressure, which runs in his family. He has struggled with high blood pressure his entire life.
“There are no words to describe Bobby. He is outgoing, competitive and always ready to succeed,” Morton’s girlfriend Krystal Nigh said. “He has a great heart and is great with kids. I couldn’t ask for a better partner.”
Morton is well known in the community, having graduated from RCHS. He believed that a willing donor would quickly offer to help him, but Morton waited nearly three years.
The minimum wait time for a kidney transplant is usually five-seven years. Morton had been offered a cadaver kidney, but doctors wanted to find him a perfect, healthy kidney because he is so young.
A person who receives a cadaver kidney has a 65 percent survival rate. Someone who receives a live kidney donation has a 90 percent survival rate.
Morton was on the transplant waiting list in Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Iowa. He was near the top of the list in Cincinnati prior to receiving the transplant.
In 2015, Morton had been having headaches that wouldn’t go away. He hated hospitals, but Nigh insisted that he go and get checked out.
He told his girlfriend that he would go after he worked out. Instead, he broke his routine and went straight to Rush Memorial Hospital.
Doctors at the hospital asked Morton if he was in pain, which he wasn’t other than experiencing headaches. They told him that his kidneys were damaged beyond repair and rushed him to Indiana University Hospital.
He spent two weeks in the hospital. Doctors at IU told Morton that dialysis would be the next step.
In July of 2017, Morton underwent surgery to have a chest catheter put in, due to complications with a blood clot. On July 20, 2017, he had surgery to have a fistula put in.
According to the Mayo Clinic, dialysis takes over the function of the kidneys by removing waste from a person’s blood. Morton said that it was a draining process.
“If you would see me in person you couldn’t tell I was on dialysis. Last week, a lady walked up to me at the gym and asked if I played professional football. I wish I did,” Morton said with a laugh.
Morton always tries to remain positive, but sometimes dialysis took a toll on him. He compared the feeling of dialysis to running two miles at a dead sprint.
If he ate a meal afterward, sometimes it would wipe him out and he had to sleep. He had a hard time coping with sleeping when he would rather be interacting with his family.
Morton wasn’t able to live the same life he had before his diagnosis, but he didn’t let it hinder his spirit. He maintained a workout regimen and played football, basketball and golf.
“If somebody tells me I can’t do something, I do it,” Morton said. “I go into dialysis smiling and I leave smiling.”
There were other challenges he faced. Morton worked for Copeland Corporation, a manufacturing facility in Rushville, for 13 years.
“I never knew being a welfare recipient is a struggle. You go from being paid weekly to receiving a monthly payment,” Morton said. “Being able to get up in the morning and having something to do... I miss working.”
Morton’s competitive nature and support system have helped him throughout his battle. He said that his rock is his 7 year old daughter.
“I never realized how much support I have out there,” Morton said. “I never knew I had this many friends.”
Morton has shown perseverance by powering through multiple injuries in his life. He broke his neck snow skiing and, in 2009, he tore his ACL playing softball.
He also overcame the loss of his sister, who died of cancer two years ago. The siblings had a pact that one would beat their illness before the other.
“We told each other we would beat this together. But her challenge was harder than mine,” Morton said. “I told my dad that he wouldn’t have to bury both of his children.”
Morton and his family were preparing for the second annual “Keep Bobby Strong Golf Outing” this Saturday, prior to receiving the news that there was a kidney available for him. The outing is still on at Antler Pointe Golf Club and Morton hopes to make an appearance at the event.
Teams of four can register by commenting on the “Keep Bobby Strong Golf Outing” Facebook page. Then, teams are asked to email their team names and roster to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Registration for the event runs from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday. The event will start at noon.
Morton said the outing isn’t just meant to benefit him. He wants to use the golf outing as an opportunity to raise awareness for everybody in need of an organ transplant.
“The golf outing isn’t just to raise money, it’s to make people aware that more than 600,000 people need an organ transplant,” Morton said. “I’m not the only one in Rushville who needs a kidney.”
Morton has done everything he could to take care of himself. His family is determined to get back to a normal, healthy lifestyle.
“We are ready to start this journey. Going home will be a whole other world,” Nigh said. “It will be good to see him back on his feet.”
Morton received a kidney from a young teen that recently died. The teen’s other kidney went to a young girl.
“It’s so amazing. We have a tremendous amount of respect for the donor’s family,” Nigh said. “There aren’t enough thanks, money or gifts we could give to them to let them know our appreciation.”