Alonzo Mourning, the Miami Heat center who received a kidney transplant in 2003, is turning his attention to raising awareness of organ transplantation.
On Thursday, he signed on as spokesman for the Miami Transplant Institute at Jackson Memorial Hospital and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
"I'm a living testimony that transplants save lives," he said.
Since its founding in 1979, the Miami Transplant Institute has conducted 3,000 liver transplants and 7,000 kidney transplants.
Last year, the Institute performed 28 heart, nine lung, 254 kidney, 16 pancreas and 191 liver transplants.
"Bad guts out; new, great guts in," joked Dr. Pascal J. Goldschmidt, the dean of UM's School of Medicine.
Mourning knows the difficulty of getting a transplant and following through with a detailed regimen to prevent the body from rejecting the new organ. Much of that regimen involves expensive medications -- he says his tab runs $1,000 a month -- that also tax the body.
"I had to push 200- to 300-pound men around the court, and that wasn't easy," he said. "I can imagine how a young child can feel to take these medications.
"With my voice and influence, I can draw attention to the Institute and help children overcome obstacles. Research will lead to beating the problems of organ rejection."
The basketball star had another message for the community. Get yearly checkups -- even if it's at a free clinic for a blood-pressure exam.
"A lot of people don't go and get checkups until something serious happens to them. That's the biggest dilemma. We can prevent a lot of these diseases or disorders from evolving if you catch them early enough."
“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
Your generosity can save up to eight lives with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants. One tissue donor can help up to 100 other people by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves