There are plenty of reasons why someone may require an organ transplant. It could be the result of an accident that caused a significant amount of damage to that person’s body, potentially even destroying some organs. It may be related to a birth defect or congenital health issue they didn’t know about until they reached a certain age. Transplants save lives. Every single year tens of thousands of people receive an organ transplant and it allows them to live a full and normal (or as close to normal as possible, given their specific health condition) life.
Celebrities also are subject to requiring medical care at some point in time. It could be for a kidney transplant, heart transplant, or even a bone marrow transplant for those undergoing treatment for leukemia or other serious illnesses.
We have discovered there are many celebrities whose health doesn’t get all that much attention when they require something as serious as a transplant (and it shouldn’t get public scrutiny unless they allow it) and while there’s nothing wrong with it, these revelations can be quite surprising for some. Below are 20 such celebrities you might not have known had some type of organ transplant.
20. Tracy Morgan
Comedic actor Tracy Morgan recently survived a serious accident on a New Jersey highway, but long before that he had been diagnosed with diabetes. It was so severe that he required dialysis or a kidney transplant. A former girlfriend of his, Tanisha Hall, donated one of her kidneys so that he wouldn’t have to undergo dialysis. It likely also saved his life, though her motivations have been under some intense scrutiny through the years. Some believe she hoped to get back together with him after this, but regardless, that didn’t happen.
19. Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs is one of those legends whom almost everyone who pays attention to popular culture will recognize. He was the founder of the iconic computer giant Apple, famously building the company out of his parents’ garage after he had dropped out of college. He was also a humanitarian who helped many people through his philanthropy. Unfortunately, his health turned bad during the 2000s, with a rare liver disease destroying this vital organ. He received a transplant, but also had to content with pancreatic cancer, passing away in 2011.
18. Sarah Hyland
Kidney dysplasia can be an incredibly painful condition to live with, but that’s precisely what Modern Family actress Sarah Hyland had to endure from the time she was nine until 21. When she was 21, her father donated a kidney for a transplant. The operation was successful and this young actress was finally to pursue her life without the limits that condition had placed on her in the past. She now lives pain free and continues to entertain millions of fans around the world.
17. Natalie Cole
The daughter of the legendary jazz crooner Nat King Cole, Natalie Cole once struggled with a heroin addiction. She was also addicted to cocaine and had been trying to kick the habit for years. During her drug use, she contracted Hepatitis C and then went through a lengthy treatment process that managed to be successful in curing over 80 percent of the disease. However, it took a toll on her kidneys. She found a hero in a former nurse of hers whose niece had just passed away. She offered Natalie Cole a kidney and it turned out to be a match.
16. Larry Hagman
Most people can easily associate Larry Hagman as playing the pivotal role as the oil tycoon in the television soap opera series Dallas. In 1995, he was diagnosed with a very serious condition that destroyed his liver. Without a transplant, he was facing the very real prospect of dying. Fortunately for him, his life was saved when he received a new liver that same year. Later on he went back to play the role that had made him a household name.
15. James Redford
While his name may not be synonymous with fame and fortune, the son of the legendary actor Robert Redford had a serious illness that almost cost him his life. James Redford was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a condition in which the bile ducts in the liver become completely blocked. He had to endure two liver transplants in order to have his life saved. He may not be a celebrity like many others we would ascribe this term to, but his family, including his father, are probably grateful he had the opportunity to make a full recovery.
14. Sean Elliott
Another NBA player on this list is Sean Elliott. He is a former San Antonio Spurs player who continued playing the sport he loved, the one he grew up playing with a fervent passion, even though he had also been dealing with kidney disease. His was similar to that which ultimately sidelined Alonzo Mourning, segmental glomerulosclerosis. He received a kidney from his older brother Noel on August 16, 1999. On March 13 the following year, Sean Elliot became the first player in the history of the NBA to return following a kidney transplant.
13. David Crosby
It’s hard to imagine that a musical icon such as David Crosby of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills, and Nash (and occasionally Young) would need money to cover a major medical procedure such as a liver transplant, but that’s what happened apparently in the mid-1990s. Friend and other iconic musician Phil Collins paid for his liver transplant. David Crosby had long battled alcoholism, which led to cirrhosis of the liver and the need for a new one. Fortunately for him and millions of his fans around the world, the procedure was successful and he began taking better care of his health, too.
12. Mickey Mantle
There are numerous people who believe individuals who do things that harm their health should not be placed in a higher priority on a transplant list just because they are a celebrity, and when Mickey Mantle needed one, his number seemed to come up very quickly. He had been a longtime alcoholic, suffered from liver cancer as well as cirrhosis, and even contracted Hepatitis C. Still, even though he was relatively new on the ‘list,’ he got a liver transplant in 1995, at the age of 63. He died that same year.
11. Erik Compton
Most people might not recognize the name Erik Compton, but this Norwegian-American golfer has played on the PGA tour for many years, even though he has suffered from viral cardiomyopathy since he was nine years old. This is a condition that weakens the heart over time. He had a heart transplant when he was 12 years old, but due to the condition, required another one when he was 28. It’s not clear whether he may require another one in the future, but for someone who has shown resolve on and off the course, the future continues to look bright.
10. Phil Lesh
The Grateful Dead were one of the most prolific bands of all time, touring endlessly until the death of their frontman Jerry Garcia. Phil Lesh was the bass player for the band through those years and when he contracted Hepatitis C, it was obvious he was going to require a liver transplant. While he waited on a list, he finally got that transplant in 1998 that saved his life.
9. Amy Purdy
Amy Purdy’s rise to celebrity is not like many others. When she was just 19, she was rushed to the hospital with flu-like symptoms, but it was anything but. She was in a state of septic shock and went into multiple organ failure, leading doctors to induce her into a coma. Her father donated a kidney to her just before her 21st birthday, but during that ordeal in the hospital, she lost both of her legs due to infection. Undeterred, she went on to win medals in the Paralympic games and was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars.
8. Alonzo Mourning
Alonzo Mourning is a former NBA player, a rising star in the world of professional basketball, but he had to step away from the competition in 2003 due to segmental glomerulosclerosis, which affects the way the kidneys function. He was going to require a transplant or face dialysis at least three days every week for many years to come. His cousin, Jason Cooper, who the star hadn’t seen in 25 years, heard about his health issue and tested to see if they were a compatible match. They were and he donated one kidney to Alonzo. He returned to the game and won the 2006 NBA Championship with the Miami Heat.
7. George Lopez
TV host and personality George Lopez was suffering from a genetic condition in which the kidneys begin to deteriorate. At some point in time he knew he would need a kidney transplant to avoid regular dialysis and further health complications into the future. Fortunately his wife was a match and she donated one of her kidneys. The procedure took place in 2005, but that didn’t help save their marriage as they sadly divorced in 2010.
6. Lucy Davis
Lucy Davis may not be a household name around the world, but she was a popular actress in Great Britain, especially when she starred in their version of The Office, which eventually was adopted in the United States and starred Steve Carrell. Lucy Davis was dealing with diabetes and kidney failure in the mid 1990s and received a transplant that made all the difference in the world to her, her family, and her friends.
5. Gary Coleman
Gary Coleman was an overnight sensation as a child star on Different Strokes, but he also had to deal with a host of health problems in his life. During the early 1980s, when he was making a name for himself in Hollywood, he received two separate kidney transplants. He suffered from a kidney condition known as nephritis and it’s unclear whether the first transplant didn’t take because his body rejected it or the disease affected that donated kidney as well. He eventually went on to live a full life until he passed away in 2010 at the age of 42.
4. Dick Cheney
Dick Cheney was a strongly polarizing politician throughout much of his career and as Vice President of the United States, it was clear he had some serious health issues. He had a pacemaker for many years while serving in office, but in 2011 had a heart transplant. He appears to be doing much better in the health department in recent years, gearing up to make his voice heard in the next presidential election.
3. Mandy Patinkin
Mandy Patinkin is one of the most revered actors of our time, but he had a very serious and degenerative eye condition that threatened his ability to see. Keratoconus can erode the cornea of the eye, leading ultimately to blindness. He received two cornea transplants that managed to save his eyesight and allow him to continue working in the craft that he loves. Inigo Montoya, of The Princess Bride would be forever grateful.
2. Scott MacIntyre
It’s always nice when you’re able to maintain a strong and healthy relationship with one of your former college professors, but for the former American Idol star Scott MacIntyre, his life could very well have been saved thanks to the generosity of his former professor’s wife. Patricia Cosand donated one of her kidneys to Scott after he discovered he had kidney disease. It was an act of kindness and compassion for which Scott will likely be forever grateful.
1. Robert Altman
There are millions upon millions of fans of Robert Altman’s work through the years, which includes popular shows like Gosford Park and MASH. When his life was in danger due to heart disease, the only thing that was going to save his life was a transplant. Fortunately for him and his family, and those millions of fans of his directorial work, he received that transplant in the mid-1990s. It was a gift that will likely remain far greater than any awards he won.