Jazz center Ostertag donates kidney to sister

Friday, June 28th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DALLAS (AP) _ With smiles, laughter and high hopes, Utah Jazz center Greg Ostertag donated a kidney Thursday to his younger sister, whose kidneys failed in March.

Doctors at Baylor University Medical Center said the transplant was a success and that both Ostertag and his sister, Amy Hall, were recovering well.

Hall, 26, has had type 1 diabetes since she was 7. Her kidney problems began in 1999. After it was determined she needed a new organ, tests showed her brother to be a perfect donor.

``It's already working wonderfully,'' said her surgeon, Robert Goldstein, who also did Mickey Mantle's transplant at the medical center in 1995. ``She very soon will start feeling better.''

Goldstein said the first month to six weeks is when rejection would most likely surface, but that Hall will be on anti-rejection medicine to prevent that.

``In a living, related donor like this, there is a high, high success rate,'' he said. ``Hopefully, Amy can grow very, very old with this kidney.''

Butch Derrick, the surgeon who removed Ostertag's kidney, said he, too, was doing well.

``He was sitting up, talking, feels just fine,'' Derrick said. ``He wanted me to tell everyone hello. He sends his best.''

The only minor complication came shortly before the 7-foot-2 Ostertag's surgery.

``We had to find a long enough table to put him on,'' Derrick said.

Ostertag went in first for the 2 1/2-hour procedure, and Hall went in about the time her brother was finished. Their support group at the hospital included their parents, Hall's husband and an aunt.

``They were joking and carrying on. They were hilarious,'' said Kathryn Goldstein, a spokeswoman at Baylor University Medical Center who was with the family before the operations. ``It was typical sibling joking back and forth, just being silly.''

Ostertag probably will be released by Saturday or Sunday, Hall by Monday or Tuesday.

The risk of career-threatening complications are low. Doctors have told Ostertag he can return to his normal routine within six weeks if all goes well. He expects to be ready for the start of training camp.

``I would expect him to return to playing basketball at the level he played before the surgery,'' Derrick said.

The procedure, which involved four small incisions and the use of a scope rather than the traditional open cut, makes for a shorter recovery.

Ostertag, 29, will try becoming the second player in three years to return to the NBA following a kidney transplant. Sean Elliott went back to the San Antonio Spurs after getting a kidney from his brother in March 2000.

Ostertag told team officials of his decision in March, but didn't make it public until a few weeks ago.

``I just hope things go well with Greg,'' Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said Wednesday night. ``That's our foremost concern for him and his family. Basketball is secondary. That's always the case when we have a player who has a problem with his family. We wish him nothing but the best.''

Ostertag has often been labeled an underachiever on the court, primarily because his production hasn't measured up to his $36 million, six-year contract. He has two seasons and $16.3 million left.

He's coming off a strong playoff series in a first-round loss to Sacramento, averaging 6.8 points and 8.5 rebounds, double his regular-season numbers in both categories.

Utah acquired 7-foot center Curtis Borchardt during the draft Wednesday night, but Jazz owner Larry Miller said the move was not protection in case Ostertag can't return.

``The kidney is a wild card. But we're pretty sure unless something goes wrong with the surgery, we don't think it will affect his play much,'' Miller said. ``It isn't something we're worried about.''