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Kidney Disease Will Force Mourning to Miss Season

Aired October 16, 2000 - 10:28 a.m. ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Still watching the monitor here from Miami, Florida. Again, we expect Alonzo Mourning, the center, star center, for the Miami Heat to talk any time now about his recent health problems. A kidney ailment is the condition. As I look now at the monitor, indeed, Alonzo Mourning, known as "Zoe" in the sporting world and the NBA, is now there sitting next to Pat Riley to his left. We'll listen now for comments again live from Miami. Alonzo Mourning, 30 years young, right now meeting with reporters.

PAT RILEY, HEAD COACH, MIAMI HEAT: Want to welcome everybody. And, first of all, I would like to introduce the people at the head table: David Falk, a long-time adviser with Alonzo, obviously, and Dr. Victor Richards here from the Miami Kidney Group, and Dr. Gerald Appel from Columbia-Presbyterian in New York. And, of course, Zoe will be speaking on his condition.

You have all been, I think, given a statement that will be handed out after the press conference.

And, you know, 10 days ago, obviously, you know, we had come to, you know, the understanding that findings were found in reference to Alonzo Mourning's kidney disorder. And with more diagnosis and a lot more consultation over the last week we have come to this day where a plan -- and I think the most important thing is that a plan has been prescribed. And while there are a lot of things important in basketball, it's really a three-pronged approach, you know, from our part and of course on Zoe's part.

And in speaking with Zoe, we know the most important aspect of his life is his family and to make sure that he's going to be able to provide for them. And he will for a long period of time, I can assure you of that.

And the second really priority is his health, and that's what we're talking about, is that we are here today to make sure that what is prescribed for Alonzo is going to be in the best terms of his family and his health. And without, you know, equivocation, I know you're going to be asking the questions about playing. Alonzo Mourning will not be playing professional basketball this season, and we are totally convinced that the only thing that should be on his mind and our mind is to get him healthy.

And he will be going through what doctors -- what the doctors will be discussing with you as to a plan and a procedure that will prevent him from playing.

You know, when you come to a fork in the road, you know, you take it, and we have come to that. And I want to thank everybody along with Zoe for, you know, being patient, and now we must move forward. We're going to move forward.

And Zoe would like to make a few comments, too.

ALONZO MOURNING, PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER: Thanks, coach. And I want to thank everybody for coming in here today.

It's been a -- it's been a tough week and a half, just listening to all the information that has been given to me, and at the same time, it's been quite interesting. There's been some down moments and been some very positive moments -- more positive than down.

I think the key is and what has gotten me through up to this point was just staying positive. And first and foremost, you know, I want to thank everybody, everybody who has -- who has given their support, who has written, who have called and given their support and love for me, because that has been very, very uplifting.

I want to thank everybody for their patience -- well, not everybody for their patience. Barry and a couple of other names I don't want to mention.

But I mean, just all the speculation and everything, you know, it's just made the situation a whole lot harder. But I mean, when I was ready to -- I knew that when I was going to be ready to address the public on all this, you know, and I was going to make sure that I had all the information that I needed to know. And I talked on the whole diagnosis about how to address the public.

At the same time, you know, I've always said this, you know: I'm a blessed individual. I have a great deal to be thankful for. Throughout the years, God has blessed me with a great deal, and I know this, and I know there's a whole lot of other people out there that's a whole lot worse-off than me right now, you know.

So the sympathy that has been given, that's not going to get me through it. What's going to get me through it is everybody being positive and upbeat around me, and just thinking nothing but good things. And that's the only thing that's going to keep me up, and it's going to help me get though this...


DR. VICTOR RICHARDS, MIAMI KIDNEY GROUP: ... negative HIV panels, and no evidence of any systemic or total body illness. Everything seem to be localized just to primary kidney problem. And for that reason on October 6th, Alonzo underwent a kidney biopsy here in Miami. The diagnosis by pathology was something called focal glomerulosclerosis, and we informed Alonzo and his family of that.

Shortly afterwards, coincidentally, there was a large meeting of nephrologists in Toronto, the American Society of Nephrology, where I had the opportunity to present the case and the pathology slides to Dr. Gerald Appel here to my right.

And when Dr. Appel reviewed it, and by that -- let me introduce Dr. Appel, who will speak to you on the diagnosis and what it all means.

Dr. Appel is a professor of clinical medicine and director of the kidney disease at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York. He had a three-year residency training at Columbia and did a fellowship nephrology and kidney diseases at Columbia, and subsequently Yale New Haven Medical Center. And he has for the last 20 years been a professor and instructor at Columbia Hospital in New York.

His primary interest has been in the field of glomerular nephritis and lupus nephritis. He's published over 150 manuscripts and book chapters in standard texts, including that of "Cecil's Textbook of Medicine," several "Scientific American" titles, and has authored several chapters in up-to-date (ph) nephrology.

He has played a major role in local and national kidney societies and has been the past president of the New York Society of Nephrology, served for many years on the medical advisory board of the New York- New Jersey National Kidney Foundation, and was chief of the renal, or kidney, section of the American College of Physicians self-assessment examination.

He's been recently appointed chairman of the Glomerular and Nephritis Council of the National Kidney Foundation of the United States. For many years, he's been co-director of Columbia University's highly successful post-graduate renal biopsy course and more recently the combined Beth Israel Harvard Presbyterian Columbia internal medicine course.

He participates as a faculty member on numerous nephrology courses around the United States, and throughout his career, Dr. Appel has always maintained a high level of personal commitment to the care of both his patients and those of referring physicians.

He just returned from the ASN, the American Society of Nephrology meeting in Toronto, where he led conferences and lectured on this specific disease to thousands of other nephrologists, and we consider him the leading expert in focal glomerulorsclerosis.

Dr. Appel.


As Victor has mentioned, I've just returned from the American Society of Nephrology, where we had a conference, which I chaired, on focal sclerosis of a thousand nephrologists, letting them know the new patterns of this disease and how it is treated in the year 2000. I can tell you that the National Kidney Foundation of the United States has been funding research on focal sclerosis, this disease. We at Columbia University in New York have worked on this disease for 20 years now. This used to be thought of as a rare disease: 20 years ago, 2 to 3 percent of all the biopsies we looked at Columbia were focal sclerosis; 20 years later, it's over 20 percent of all the biopsies.

This is not a rare disease. Moreover, it is extremely common in young people and especially in young Afro-Americans, and we are seeing an epidemic of this disease in the country, and that's the reason that the American Society of Nephrology and the Kidney Foundation are tuned into it so much, especially because of the increasing numbers and the predilection for young people and young Afro-Americans.

Now Alonzo's kidney biopsy was looked at by four experts. We brought the biopsy right up to Toronto, looked at it right there by four of the leading pathologists in the United States. All agree on the diagnosis that he has a pattern, a variant of focal sclerosis, which I will explain in just a second.

I've looked over the biopsy. I've gone over the case history with Dr. Richards. I've actually discussed this with some of the other leading nephrologists in the country. We all agree he has focal sclerosis.

This is a disease in which the filters of the kidney leak protein into the urine. When you leak protein into the urine, the protein in the blood becomes low, and you retain salt and water, and you start to swell. If you continue to leak large amounts of protein into the urine for a long period of time, eventually the million filters in each kidney scar down. That's the sclerosis part of it, and eventually you would need dialysis or a transplant, and that's what we're trying to prevent here.

Now I can tell you that there are many known causes of this disease, focal sclerosis, but in Alonzo's case it is of unknown cause. I can tell you I'm very confident from the blood tests, from looking at the biopsy, from looking at the electron microscopy of this biopsy, where we blow the pictures up hundreds of thousands of times, I'm very confident this is not related to HIV disease, it's not related to drug abuse, it's not related to steroids or anything that Alonzo did. This is what we call in medicine idiopathic. We do not know the cause.

And I have seen lawyers, doctors, school teachers, everybody else who come in with this same lesion here...

HEMMER: Doctors in Miami talking about the condition, the kidney disease that Alonzo Mourning, the star center for the Miami Heat, has just announced to the public, and reporters there gathered in Miami. Indeed, he will not return for this part of the season, saying it's been a tough week and a half after being diagnosed just -- just about a week and a half ago.

What's described as a routine physical in Miami before the start of this season turned up to be some -- some difficulties with his kidney system. It is called in medical terms focal sclerosis, which is said to be a common disease in young African-Americans, in which, according to doctors, a kidney filters leak protein into the urine. Eventually, doctors say, it could lead to a transplant, but at this point, they have not concluded that in the case of Alonzo Mourning. And his cause for that disease is still an open question.

Again, Alonzo Mourning will not play this year. Details of his kidney disease just being revealed. This coming just a few short weeks after Alonzo Mourning helped the U.S. Olympic team win gold in Sydney.

We'll track it. Not the best of days for him. But we shall see about what happens down the road with his health.



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