Men's Basketball

UPDATE: Billy Gillispie and donor doing well after kidney transplant, surgeon says

Billy Gillispie and Ericka Downey sit down before surgery

Former Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie and kidney donor Ericka Downey talk about the procedure and how they came together.
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Former Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie and kidney donor Ericka Downey talk about the procedure and how they came together.

A day after former Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie received a kidney transplant, both the recipient and the donor are doing well, according to the surgeon who performed part of the operation at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

"Both the donor and the recipient are doing very well," Dr. Timucin Taner said in a video released by the clinic Wednesday. "It was a beautiful kidney. We had no problems taking it out and no problems putting it in. The kidney is working and the recipient is doing very well."

Ericka Downey, the wife of a basketball coach who felt a "pull" to help Gillispie and ended up being a perfect match for him, posted a thumbs up photo on her Twitter account after the surgery on Tuesday.

The Mayo Clinic also released videos of Gillispie and Downey's pre-surgery interviews where they sat down together and answered questions about their story.

"It's kind of surreal for me," Downey said. "Even sitting here and surgery impending tomorrow, it still doesn't feel like I'm really giving anything. He talks about the brotherhood and he talks about that atmosphere in coaching and it's just rewarding in itself, but it really doesn't feel like I'm sacrificing anything on my end."

Gillispie shook his head in disbelief at the comment and his eyes welled with tears as he was asked to respond.

"It's hard to put into words ... ," Gillispie said. "I don't see how she can't be feeling like she's making an ultimate sacrifice because she is."

On Wednesday, she reported that she'd seen the coach and he had already been up walking.

"Update: I’m up sitting in a chair. I took a stroll down the hall to visit with Coach Gillispie. Soreness is worse today which is to be expected. Coach has been up walking this morning also. And most importantly the kidney is working! Praise God."

According to Taner the laparoscopic procedure to remove the kidney took about an hour and an half. Once placed into Gillispie, it began working immediately, Taner said.

Another tweet from Downey on Tuesday evening said, "He's doing well. He's in a regular room. Didn't have to go to ICU. Kidney is working. Need it to remain consistent in the days ahead. God is good."

Gillispie didn't meet his donation match until the Final Four on March 31. Downey had seen a story on his health issues and felt moved to find out if she was a match. She was.

Gillispie, a former head coach at Kentucky, Texas A&M and Texas Tech, is athletics director at Ranger College in Ranger, Texas. He had to give up head coaching duties there when he was diagnosed with kidney failure believed caused by years of high-blood pressure.

Gillispie also revealed in another Mayo Clinic interview how he came to learn about his illness. He had been suffering from some headaches and a cough during the basketball season and thought it was just bronchitis. Upon finally getting himself checked out after the season, he learned doctors were concerned it was something else and ran a number of tests.

Gillispie had been told he had some sort of "heart event" and that his kidneys were failing.

"One of the best things about this whole situation is some attention because of basketball and things, and our story, mostly her story is that I know it's going to inspire other people to be donors. And there's a lot of people out there that need a donation," Gillispie said.