MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WCBI/ESPN, Andy Katz) — Memphis Tigers assistant coach Robert Kirby, who lost his mother 17 years ago because of complications from kidney failure and lupus, donated a kidney to his sister on Tuesday and hopes to be back at practice in the next few weeks.
With her health failing in 1996, Kirby’s mother, Ethel, refused to allow any of her 13 children to see whether they could be a donor match. He said he wasn’t going to see his 57-year-old sister, Virginia Kirk, experience the same fate.
The procedure was performed at Methodist University Hospital in Memphis. By Thursday morning, Kirby, 53, and Kirk were about to go home.
“My mother wouldn’t allow us to donate,” said Kirby, an assistant coach over three decades on the staffs at Arkansas-Little Rock, Houston, Southeastern Louisiana, Mississippi State, Georgetown and LSU. “She said she lived her life. She didn’t want any of us to do that. This was my sister, and it was never a question mark if I would, but it was ‘Could I?'”
Kirby and other siblings went through a series of tests to determine a match. Kirby was the one. He went through many testings and passed each one. In July, while recruiting at the Peach Jam in North Augusta, S.C., for the Tigers, he was informed that he was a match for his sister.
Kirby said his sister was down to one functioning kidney and experiencing renal failure. When the kidney was tested for cancer and tests came back negative, transplant surgery was scheduled.
Kirby and Kirk were able to communicate with each other Thursday about their conditions.
“The color came back in her face right away,” he said. “She’s doing quite well. I’m just a little sore. She was down to one, and that one wasn’t functioning very well at all. The life has come back to her.”
Kirk is married with three children and has five grandchildren. Kirby is married and has two children. He said his wife, Valerie, fully supported his decision.
Kirby will spend the next several weeks resting and healing.
Memphis is expected to be ranked in the preseason Top 25 and challenge Louisville and UConn for the new American Athletic Conference regular-season title.