Wootten gets new liver at Hopkins All signs are good after transplant

July 11, 1996|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,SUN STAFF

Morgan Wootten, DeMatha High's legendary basketball coach who has long suffered from cirrhosis of the liver, received a transplant yesterday, a procedure hailed by his grateful wife, Kathy, as "a second chance" at life.

After the 5 1/2 -hour operation at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Dr. James Burdick, Wootten's transplant surgeon, said, "There's a possibility he will be able to coach this year," which would be his 41st season at the Hyattsville school.

Wootten, who collapsed Sunday at his basketball camp at Mount St. Mary's in Emmitsburg, has had a diseased liver for years, believed to stem from an inherited condition.

He had been on a transplant list since April, but the internal bleeding that developed last week and led to his collapse made him a "high-priority " candidate.

Dr. Paul Thuluvath, Hopkins' director of liver transplantation, called Wootten "a very lucky man" because he got a liver of the right size and blood type within 48 hours of entering Hopkins. It is hospital policy not to identify the donor or even the location where the removal was performed.

"Some people think well-known or rich people get preferential treatment, but that's not true," Thuluvath said. "Whoever shows up at Johns Hopkins' door gets the same treatment."

Burdick said the operation "went well," that Wootten could be out of the hospital in a week, although two or three is more likely.

"There's almost always one complication, especially with people in their 60s," Burdick said, noting that Wootten is 65.

"There's always the danger of rejection, especially these next few weeks. There's also the risk of infection or an artery of the liver becoming blocked, although that's unlikely."

Thuluvath and Burdick received the first call about a potential donor at 6 p.m. Tuesday. It wasn't until a series of tests were run on the donor that it became a go at 4: 30 a.m. yesterday.

A liver transplant normally requires eight hours, and the fact Wootten's was done in 5 1/2 was considered "an extremely good sign" by Thuluvath.

"Sometimes there's bleeding or infection or parts of the body give up," he said. "I look for a good recovery."

The longer a patient goes without a complication, Burdick said, the more likely he is not to have trouble. After a year, he's usually in the clear.

"We thank everyone for their love, support and prayers," Kathy Wootten said. "We especially thank the donor for giving Morgan a second chance."

Joe Wootten, who will be DeMatha's assistant next season, is convinced his father will be on the sideline again. Wootten has a 1,094-163 record, and in 1993 became the fifth high school basketball coach in the country to win 1,000 games.

"I'll be surprised if he's not," Joe said. "I say that because many times through all this he looked whipped, but he refused to give up. He's the most competitive person I know."

Pub Date: 7/11/96

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