BOMBING judge needs liver transplant

Wednesday, August 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DENVER (AP) _ The federal judge who oversaw the Oklahoma City bombing trials has a progressive liver disease and could receive a liver transplant within months or even weeks, doctors said Wednesday.

Richard Matsch, 71, was in good condition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center with an infection caused by the disease. He was hospitalized Sunday with a severe infection and shaking chills.

Matsch, who has had the disease for about two years, was placed on a transplant waiting list last year, said his physician, Dr. Gregory Everson.

Dr. Igal Kam, who heads the hospital's liver transplant program, said Matsch is now within the top five on the list of Coloradans with Type-A blood who are awaiting a transplant.

Matsch was alert and sitting up Wednesday, Everson said. ``He's very, very capable of handling his duties,'' he said.

Matsch has primary sclerosing cholangitis, an inflammatory condition that restricts bile ducts, causing a buildup of fluid that can lead to infections.

The disease caused scarring on Matsch's liver, Everson said.

Former Chicago Bears star Walter Peyton died in 1999 of bile duct cancer after being diagnosed with the disease. Country star Chris LeDoux also had the disease and received a liver transplant last October.

Matsch, known for his short temper and big cowboy hat, presided over the Denver trials and appeals of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and coconspirator Terry Nichols.

He also presided over the trial of several members of a militant, anti-Semitic organization responsible for the 1984 assassination of Denver radio talk show host Alan Berg. He heard arguments in Denver's school desegregation case as well as political corruption trials.

Matsch was reviewing pleadings and signing orders in his hospital room Wednesday, court clerk James Manspeaker said. Matsch's cases were being handled by another judge this week but no decision has been made about next week.

About 18,000 people are awaiting liver transplants in the United States but there are only enough donors to perform about 4,500 each year.

Everson said Matsch probably will have to be hospitalized again to treat infection before he gets a transplant. He will be kept on antibiotics and has had a drainage tube inserted into his bile system to keep his liver functioning, he said.

Doctors don't know the cause of the disease, but it's not alcohol or drugs, Everson said.