Wootten tops list for a liver transplant Gene-related cirrhosis makes situation urgent

July 10, 1996|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,SUN STAFF

Morgan Wootten, who has compiled a 1,094-163 record in 40 seasons as basketball coach at Hyattsville's DeMatha High, has cirrhosis of the liver and is a "high priority" candidate for a transplant.

Wootten is in Johns Hopkins Hospital after collapsing Sunday at his basketball camp at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg. He has had a diseased liver, believed to be the result of an inherited condition, for years and has been on a transplant list since April, but recent internal bleeding has made his condition critical.

"I saw him this spring, and he already had cirrhosis," said Dr. Paul Thuluvath, Hopkins' director of liver transplantation. "The bleeding last week made it more urgent, and we've only been able to control it somewhat with drugs and procedures. The only thing that will save his life is a transplant.

"We hope to have a transplant within three or four days. The maximum we can wait in this case is two weeks. Normally, the chances of a transplant patient surviving are almost 90 percent. Where there's bleeding like this, it drops to 60 to 70 percent."

Wootten, the winningest high school basketball coach in the state who, in 1993, became the fifth in the country to win 1,000 games, has what is called primary biliary cirrhosis. The cause is unknown, but it is believed to be hereditary.

"Genes play a major role," Dr. Thuluvath said. "Morgan has abnormal liver enzymes that began developing many years ago. The disease is insidious, progressing slowly. Now, it's advanced."

Joe Wootten, who will be the top assistant at DeMatha next season, was at the camp when his father collapsed. Joe, the rest of the Wootten family and Dr. Thuluvath appeared at a news conference yesterday at Johns Hopkins.

"Dad told us two or three years ago he'd probably need a transplant in four or five years," said Joe, who was DeMatha's freshman coach last season. "Just recently he said he thought he wouldn't finish next season and that I'd have to finish as interim head coach."

Sick as he was, Morgan Wootten drew on one of his favorite maxims the other day, one he told his players on those rare occasions when DeMatha lost two in a row.

"Tough times don't last," he told Joe. "Tough men do."

He added a philosophical note: "If this is my time, it's been 65 great years. I have a fabulous wife and family and I've had an effect on a lot of people."

Some of those people wasted no time calling. When Joe Wootten checked yesterday, there were 75 messages on his parents' answering machine from players, coaches and friends.

Pub Date: 7/10/96

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