As the San Antonio Spurs drove toward the NBA championship, Sean Elliott kept a frightening secret: He needed a kidney transplant and might be playing his last games.
Doctors said today that his condition has worsened. Elliott, 31, hopes to have a transplant as soon as a matching donor is found.
"It's a situation that I've known about for a while, so for me it really hasn't been a shock," Elliott said. "Ask me if I'm a little scared, yeah, I'm a little worried."
Elliott said he has no pain and is staying upbeat, even hoping to resume his career after the transplant.
Family members underwent blood screening this week to see if they qualify as kidney donors. If there is no family match, Elliott will be placed on a transplant waiting list.
John Reineck, a kidney specialist who is treating Elliott, said there is no precedent for a professional athlete returning to a sport after a kidney transplant.
Elliott learned of his condition about six years ago. His disease is known as focal glomerulosclerosis, one of a variety of kidney diseases that result in a severe, prolonged loss of protein into the urine. The cause of his disease is not clear.
Reineck said the disease, if not treated, could lead to exhaustion, weakness, nausea and weight loss. However, he said Elliott has "an excellent long-term prognosis for living a normal life."
Said teammate Tim Duncan: "I know now what he was playing with and that makes what he did the whole season that much more incredible. . . . I'm glad we [won] it at the time that we did. But the way he's talking, he's confident he will come back."