Former UH coach Joe Curl needs heart transplant - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Former UH coach Joe Curl needs heart transplant

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

Joe Curl, the winningest coach in women's basketball at the University of Houston, recently spent 18 days in the Critical Care Unit at Methodist Hospital as he waits for a heart transplant.

Curl suffered a massive heart attack five years ago, which led to his career with the Cougars ending in 2010 when he retired from the game.

He has come to terms with his difficult situation.

"I'm either in for the heart or I'm going to die," Curl said in an interview with FOX 26 Sports and the Houston Chronicle.  "That's the reality of it.  I'm either going to receive a heart and live or I'm going to die.  It's not a game.  It's not.  That's the cold fact of it.

"There's a major part of me that's very much at peace with God and family."

Curl was at UH from 1998-2010 and left with a record of 193-167.

He had his best year in 2003-2004 when the Cougars went 24-8, winning the Conference USA regular season and tournament championships.  UH earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament and Curl was named National Coach of the Year by the Associated Press.

Curl has also come to terms with the fact he will probably never coach again.

"When it first happened, I was almost relieved the coaching part was over," Curl said.  "I knew the fight I was about ready to get involved with was a hell of a lot bigger and stronger than any fight I had ever been in in coaching."

And that fight has taken a toll on Curl and those who are closest to him.

"My family has seen the good side and the bad side and the crying and the depression," Curl said.  "Having seen all those cycles and all those sides and there's a part of me that wants to fight like crazy, but they see the other side where you're so close to just saying 'what's the use?'  You know what's the use.  You fight and fight and you seem like you're not getting any momentum but with the care of the family and the doctors, I can see momentum."

Curl's family has had to endure the pain of watching him deal with his illness that could be fatal.

"He has so many ups and downs," said Lesa Curl, Joe's wife.  "That's what's scary.  I just try to be there for him all the time because he will say one day he's just ready to be with God, and I mean the next minute he'll say 'no, I'm going to fight for that heart.'

"So I just always tell him I am going to support him whatever way he wants to go."

Joe Curl was released from Methodist Hospital on Thursday so that he could return home.  He has been waiting for a heart transplant for more than a year.  

The stint in the hospital helped move him up the list to get a heart transplant, but there are no guarantees and the fact that he is 6 feet 8 inches tall makes it tough to find a match.

"There is no time frame on it," said Angela Curl-Okafor, Joe Curl's oldest daughter.  "That's what makes it difficult.

"You can't necessarily pray that a heart will be there because you know what that takes away from someone else."

The Curl family is having to deal with wanting what is best for their husband and father, but not at the expense of others.

"It's tough because you pray for a heart, but then you know what comes with that," said Jennifer Curl, Joe's youngest daughter.

"You don't want to pray for somebody else to have to go through what we're not wanting to go through."

Lesa Curl became very emotional when asked about how she will feel if her husband gets the call that he is going to get a heart transplant.

"That would probably be the most wonderful day of my life because I know that's what he wants so badly," Lesa Curl said. "I have struggled with this a lot because I've seen him struggle so badly.

"It's like I will pray for God to just take him because it hurts me so badly to see him like this. So if we got that call I don't think there could be a happier person on this earth than I would be at that moment."

Medical expenses have overwhelmed the Curl family.

The parents had to move out of their home they lived in for 15 years because they could no longer afford it and they have already gone through their life savings.

The Curl family has set up a website (joecurlhearttransplant.com) for those who would be willing to help them with their expenses.

Donations can also be sent to the National Heart Transplant Foundation.

"When I had the massive heart (attack) five years ago, my oldest daughter Angela said when I was at my darkest hour 'I never ever thought you were going to die'," Joe Curl said.

"I was on death's doorstep, no question about it, and I never felt that way either."

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