Corprew proves to be healthy inspiration

Former U. City basketball player headed to Transplant Games

Posted: July 12, 2012

CARLTON CORPREW tried to maintain his composure and not come off like a bad person.

But a few people, and one man in particular, kept making negative comments and, finally, Corprew felt compelled to make a pointed comment.

"I just kept hearing horror stories. That's all this one guy, especially, was giving me," Corprew said. "I reached the point where I had to tell him, ‘I don't mean any harm by this, but if it's not something positive, I don't want to hear it.'?"

That exchange took place late in 2010, a few days after Corprew, an important basketball player for University City High in the 1981-82 season, received a kidney transplant and was undergoing a short stint of follow-up dialysis.

"During my original dialysis," Corprew said, "I knew at least three people who refused to get transplants. They didn't sense hope. I knew how all the negative stories wound up. I just kept thinking, ‘I'm not seeing that for myself.'?"

At U. City, Corprew was quite the late bloomer. At about 6-4, 220, he played just one season of varsity, but worked his way up to sixth man and often led the Jaquars in rebounds. He even drew college attention and played two seasons at Susquehanna.

Now, he's 47 years old, goes 6-6, 270 and, guess what, his career isn't over!

Corprew sees action in the 40-and-over league at Hank Gathers Rec Center, 25th and Diamond, in North Philly, and later this month he'll compete in an event that'll really stir his soul — the Transplant Games of America, July 28-31 in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Corprew will play for Team Philadelphia in the 3-on-3 tourney for men ages 40 to 49, and might also see action in volleyball. The rosters are still being slapped together and the one negative for Corprew is that Michael Taylor, his ex-U. City teammate and a kidney recipient 7 years ago, has been forced to bow out due to family commitments.

So, can Corprew still compete?

"I still have a 'lil something," he said, laughing. "If I can get you off your toes, off balance a little, I can score on you. The league at Hank Gathers has ex-pros and big-time college players. I'm not a shining star, but I can compete. And I'm comfortable with that."

Corprew grew up near 36th and Fairmount, in a section of Mantua known as "The Bottom." He and his wife of 23 years, Cheryl Johnson-Corprew, a former star at Northeast High, now reside on the 3600 block of North Sydenham Street, between 15th and 16th near Erie.

Corprew said his kidney woes resulted from unchecked high blood pressure. He endured 3 days short of 5 years on dialysis before receiving a new kidney on Dec. 9, 2010.

"Someone with my blood type, I was told, usually waits 2 to 4 years for a kidney," Corprew said. "Some of my old teammates/classmates were offering to get tested [for a possible match], but so many had diabetes or high blood pressure. Then I went onto a website where people can find donors . . . Just didn't work out. Makes you think, ‘Is this going to happen?'

“At my first hospital connection, I was on the list for 3 years and never got one call. Then I was listed at Hahnemann and got a call after about 6 months. That didn't work out, but at least it was a glimmer of light.

“Then, the phone call came at 8 a.m. on Dec. 8. ‘It looks like it's going to be yours.' When I got to the hospital, they had to do another biopsy. I thought, ‘Uh, oh. Maybe it's not going to happen.' But it did."

Corprew said the kidney came from a man who'd died in a car accident.

"I sent a letter of thanks to his family, but haven't heard back yet," he said. "I was told that's not uncommon. A response can take up to 3 years."

The time commitment required for dialysis caused Corprew to lose his job. He's now taking online courses with designs on starting his own business, perhaps one that provides non-emergency medical transportation.

"I feel so much better," Corprew said. "My health is back. Before I had no energy. Now I can go out in the park and play with my granddaughter and dog; could not do that before.

“The whole time I was going through dialysis, I'd think, ‘If I ever get my health back, I'm going to try to be an inspiration.' The Transplant Games . . . This is a great way! I'm going to be competing with, and against, all these people who've been through what I've gone through."

Pause.

"And I'll be paying homage to the person who gave me my life back."  

For more information about Team Philadelphia go to www.teamphilly.kintera.org. Contact Ted Silary at silaryt@phillynews.com

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