Sat, Jul 31, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Jonah Lomu gets new kidney along with hope to play

AP , WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND

Former New Zealand rugby star Jonah Lomu has had a kidney transplant in an attempt to fight a debilitating and career-threatening illness, his doctor John Mayhew said Thursday.

Mayhew said Lomu, a 63-test veteran, received a kidney from a live donor on Tuesday at Auckland City Hospital after 10 years of dealing with nephritis, a serious and potentially fatal kidney disorder.

"It is too early to comment on the success of the transplant," former All Black doctor Mayhew said Thursday. "Surgeons confirm that the operation went according to plan and Jonah is in a stable condition.

"We do not expect to be in position to comment on the success of the transplant for at least three months, at which time we will have a better picture of how Jonah's new kidney is functioning."

The donor, who wishes to remain unidentified, is said to be resting and in good spirits, Mayhew said.

"Typically donors are not identified in transplant situations. We respect this and will do all we can to ensure the donor's privacy," Mayhew said.

He said Lomu was "as well as expected" after a four- to five-hour operation.

Earlier this month, Lomu, who played the last of his tests for the All Blacks in 2002, denied reports one of his friends had volunteered a compatible kidney and that the transplant would take place within a month.

He said then that several "critical factors" had yet to be confirmed.

"Once a donor is identified it can take months for a transplant to occur, and even then there are many factors that can delay the operation," Lomu said.

Lomu, 29, has said that if the operation was a success he wanted to have a crack at making the next World Cup after starring in the 1995 and 1999 tournaments.

At his peak, Lomu was virtually unstoppable, but in 1996 he was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome, or nephritis.

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