Mourning's cousin/donor released too

Updated: December 23, 2003, 8:31 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Alonzo Mourning was released Tuesday from the hospital, just days after receiving a kidney donated by a cousin he hadn't seen since childhood.

Mourning said he was in "a lot of pain" as he left New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center where he underwent the transplant on Friday. He was joined by the cousin, Jason Cooper, a 30-year-old inactive Marine who lives in New York.

"Jason was definitely God-sent," Mourning said. "I'm very grateful. Words can't even be enough to explain how I feel."

Mourning, 33, retired on Nov. 24 because of complications from the kidney disease focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. He was diagnosed before the 2000-01 season, when he was with the Miami Heat.

Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, or FSGS, affects the kidney filters that remove toxins from the blood. In the weeks before Mourning's retirement, tests showed that his kidney function had deteriorated and that the chemical imbalances in his blood made it dangerous for him to play.

In the weeks since his retirement, hundreds of people came forward as prospective donors.

After testing a number of would-be donors, including former New York Knicks center Patrick Ewing, Cooper was determined to be the best choice, doctors said.

"There was never a doubt in my mind that I was going to do it," said Cooper, who will not be able to re-enlist in the Marines following the transplant.

Mourning's doctors said his prognosis for a relatively normal life was good, once he recovers from his incisions.

Mourning said he hasn't considered whether he would try to return to professional basketball.

"I haven't even thought about that," he said. "All of my focus has been on really just trying to keep this kidney in my body."

Former NBA player Sean Elliott successfully returned to the league in 2001 after a kidney transplant in 1999. Mourning also spoke about the need for donors, reading a letter he received from a 17-year-old girl from New Jersey who wrote of her mother's need for a kidney and asked him to raise awareness.

"I know that I can only use one kidney. There are so many people in this world that are going through the same situation," Mourning said. "Those people who reached out to me to offer their assistance, I encourage them to help someone else."

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press