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Archive for Sunday, October 20, 2002

Ostertag getting new-found respect

October 20, 2002

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— Greg Ostertag's greatest assist never appeared in an NBA box score. It didn't win a game, either.

Ostertag helped save his sister's life.

The Utah Jazz center made a supreme sacrifice in June, risking his playing career and health by donating a kidney to his younger sister, who has diabetes.

One of the league's biggest players, the 7-foot-2, 280-pound Ostertag, a Kansas University product, now has a 4-inch scar on his stomach as a reminder of where doctors removed the healthy kidney that's now inside his 26-year-old sister, Amy Hall.

"She's doing great," Ostertag said Friday night, when the Jazz played the Cleveland Cavaliers in an exhibition game. "She's back to working eight hours a day, and five days a week. The kidney I gave her is functioning as good as it should. All her tests are good. Everything is going really good with her."

Ostertag generally is doing well, too, although he recently had a minor setback related to the surgery and sat out Utah's last two games because of an abdominal strain. He was unable to work out for nearly two months after the operation, and as a result, Ostertag thinks he might have injured himself while trying to catch up and get ready for the regular season.

"I probably came back sooner than I should have," the seven-year veteran said. "I thought I was ready, and I probably pushed it a little harder than I should have."

Ostertag expects to be playing again sometime next week. Until then, he can participate in light drills with his teammates and will continue to work out.

Doctors have told him the surgery won't prevent him from playing hard. Ostertag doesn't have to wear any special padding while trading blows under the basket with the likes of Shaquille O'Neal or Dikembe Mutombo.

"The only thing I have to worry about is a major trauma," he said. "A car wreck or falling out of a tree something crazy like that."

There are a few health guidelines he'll have to follow closely.

"The biggest thing is keeping hydrated," he said, clutching two water bottles while standing outside Utah's locker room. "I have one kidney now, and it's functioning great. It's starting to pick up where the two left off. It's compensating."

Amy, who has had diabetes since she was 7, began having kidney problems three years ago. When her kidneys started to fail in March, a transplant was the only thing that could save her.

Fortunately, doctors didn't have to look far to find a match.

"I told her from the beginning, 'Whenever you need it, give me a call.' And she did in March," Ostertag said. "I said, 'Tell me what you need me to do.' We got the tests, and that was it."

Ostertag and his sister were always close growing up, but not like they are now.

"It was a typical brother-sister relationship," the 29-year-old said. "We fought. She calls and tells me how she's doing. We talk more now than we ever did."

Ostertag's relationship with fans has changed, too.

Booed at home because of his inconsistent play, and jeered on the road for his sometimes rough play, Ostertag's being treated differently by those who have learned his story.

"I've had so many people come up and say we're really proud of what you did," he said. "Even people in opposing cities. It's funny because it's hard for me to take compliments like that. I'm not used to hearing them."

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