Spoonhour released from ICU after successful lung transplant

All signs are pointing in the right direction for Charlie Spoonhour, one week after the former UNLV basketball coach received a lung transplant.

Spoonhour, 71, was released from intensive care Friday at Duke Medical Center in Durham, N.C. He had a breathing tube removed Wednesday.

“This is great progress,” Spoonhour’s wife, Vicki, said while sitting by his hospital bed. “It’s good news so far.”

She described his physical condition as “very weak” after last Saturday’s five-hour surgery. But he has been gaining strength after the successful transplant.

Spoonhour experienced trouble breathing early this year, and in July he sought opinions from several doctors. He was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a scarring or thickening of the lungs without a known cause.

No medication has been shown to improve the outcome of patients with the condition. Duke doctors approved Spoonhour for the transplant, and he was put on a waiting list early this month.

“The doctors are very happy. The surgery could not have gone better,” Vicki Spoonhour said. “He’s on oxygen all the time. It’s just a matter of small steps.

“What the doctors would like is for him to be able to walk a mile before we get out of here.”

Spoonhour was doing a little walking and talking Friday. He will spend about two more weeks in the hospital and then is scheduled to go through physical therapy at Duke for two months.

He had the opportunity to seek medical help at Duke because of his connections with influential college coaches, including West Virginia’s Bob Huggins and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski.

Spoonhour, who lives in Las Vegas, coached the Rebels from 2001 to 2004 and compiled a 54-31 record with two National Invitation Tournament appearances. Citing health issues, he stepped down 21 games into his third season.

UNLV lured Spoonhour, who previously coached at Saint Louis and Southwest Missouri State, out of retirement in March 2001. He won 373 games in 19 seasons as a Division I head coach.

He has been working as a TV analyst for the Missouri Valley Conference.

■ NOTES — UNLV received an oral commitment this week from Karam Mashour, a 6-foot-6-inch swingman. Mashour has been in Israel and is returning today to Las Vegas, where he lives with relatives and trains at Impact Basketball Academy.

Mashour has received academic clearance to attend UNLV and plans to begin classes Monday. He is expected to be on scholarship this season.

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at
myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907.

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