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Mickey Mantle Gets a New Liver; Chances of Recovery Called Excellent

June 8, 1995

DALLAS (AP) _ Mickey Mantle, two weeks from death with a diseased and damaged liver, was given an ``excellent chance for recovery″ Thursday after receiving a new organ a scant two days after being put on the waiting list.

The 63-year-old Hall of Fame slugger underwent about seven hours of transplant surgery at Baylor University Medical Center.

Organ-donation officials said the former baseball star got no special treatment in obtaining a new liver so quickly.

Mantle was in intensive care, where he will remain for at least 24 hours, the most critical period. He will be watched to make sure the liver continues functioning and he suffers no bleeding.

``He now has an excellent chance for recovery. The liver seems to be functioning and that’s the key to immediate post-operative recovery,″ said Dr. Robert Goldstein, the lead transplant surgeon.

Goldstein said Mantle had ``a week, maybe two to live″ had he not replaced his liver, which was ruined by cancer, hepatitis and 40 years of heavy drinking.

The donated liver was found late Wednesday, and tests showed it was compatible. Six other organs were taken from the donor and transplanted into five other people. The dead person’s identity was not disclosed.

``Later on down the line we’d like to meet them. There’s always that curiosity, but it will probably take time for them. We lost a brother just over a year ago, so we know it takes families time. We’re really grateful and thankful,″ said Mantle’s son David.

The potentially life-saving operation came exactly 26 years after the New York Yankees retired Mantle’s uniform No. 7 in a ceremony before more than 60,000 adoring fans at Yankee Stadium.

His cancer was confined to a small tumor in his liver. A second patient had been readied for surgery to receive the donor organ in case surgeons discovered that Mantle’s cancer had spread and a transplant would do him no good.

The new liver was draining properly and Mantle’s kidneys were working again, Goldstein said.

``He is 63 years old, which puts him in our elderly population. And you just have to be very, very concerned and watch very closely to make sure that everything goes very well,″ the surgeon said.

The five-year survival rate for someone who has a liver transplant is about 70 percent. But because of his age and alcohol-induced liver problems, Mantle’s chances probably would be about 60 percent, according to Goldstein.

Mantle was hospitalized May 28 complaining of stomach pains. On Tuesday, doctors notified the Southwest Organ Bank that a new liver was needed.

The typical wait in this country for a liver transplant is 130 days. But the organ bank director, Alison Smith, said it was not so unusual for an organ to be found so soon. She said Mantle’s poor health placed him in the Status 2 category, the second-highest urgency, behind people on life support.

Recipients in Status 2 have waited an average of 3.3 days this year to find new livers, she said.

``His medical condition was worse than any other recipient we had listed from the local area,″ Smith said. ``I’m sure there will be people who refuse to believe there wasn’t some special consideration given because of who he is. ... We hope people realize we work as hard to recover organs for everyone on the waiting list.″

Before the operation, Mantle was severely jaundiced, in pain and too weak to get out of bed. His family stayed at the hospital around the clock, and his former bat boys sent flowers for the one-time Yankee slugger.

Mantle was at the center of the Yankees dynasty in the 1950s and ’60s and one of baseball’s greatest hitters. The Oklahoma boy who replaced Joe DiMaggio in center field retired in 1968 with 536 home runs, now eighth on the all-time list.

Mantle’s off-field drinking exploits with teammates Whitey Ford and Billy Martin have become legend.

In January 1994, Mantle checked into the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Doctors said there was no evidence of alcohol abuse since then.

His career also was sidetracked by many injuries. Doctors speculated that the hepatitis came from blood transfusions Mantle received during past sports-related operations.

Pain and drunkenness were of little consequence to Mantle, who always said he expected to die young because no male member of his family had lived past 41.

In recent years, he joked that if he had known he was going to live this long, he would have taken better care of himself.

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