Athens Review, Athens, Texas

Local News

January 22, 2013

Curl in fight for his life

Former TVCC women’s coach needs heart transplant

Athens — HOUSTON — All Joe Curl can do is wait.

Any day now, he hopes, the phone will ring with news that a new heart is on the way.

“I’m either going to be here and receive a heart and live, or I’m going to die,” Curl, the winningest women’s basketball coach in University of Houston history, said recently from his room in the cardiac care unit at Methodist Hospital. “It’s not a game. That’s the cold fact of it.”

Curl, 58, has been in need of a new heart since “being on death’s doorstep,” as he puts it, after suffering a heart attack on a recruiting trip in 2007. He was diagnosed with end-stage heart disease, the same condition that claimed the lives of his father, mother, two brothers and sister.

Curl briefly returned to coaching, but recurring heart problems - two cardiologists told him he could no longer fly - forced him to retire in 2010.

On New Year’s Eve, Curl was readmitted to the hospital, where he remained until being discharged Thursday. He’s been given 1B status — the second-highest priority for a heart transplant.

Heart recipients who visited Curl during his hospital stay told him the wait could be weeks, a few months, a year or longer. Also making a match more difficult: Curl is 6-8.

“There still can be no time put on that; there is no timeframe on it,” his oldest daughter, Angela Curl-Okafor, said. “That’s what makes it difficult.”

For now, Curl can only wait.

Former Houston women’s basketball coach Joe Curl suffered a heart attack in 2007.

He spends his days watching TV, keeping tabs on the UH women’s program and spending time with his wife, Lesa, two daughters, Angela and Jennifer, and his 3-year-old grandson, Maverick.


speeds hard

It’s a slower schedule than he was used to during his 20-year collegiate coaching career, which included the last 12 seasons at UH. He won 193 games at UH and led the Cougars to five postseason appearances. In 2003-04, Curl’s Cougars won a school-record 28 games, the Conference USA title and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

“I went 100 miles an hour for 30-something years coaching,” Curl said. “To go from 100 mph to zero has been the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life. What I’m going through, as we speak right now, is the toughest thing I’ve ever gone through in my life. The being in the hospital, not knowing what tomorrow brings tonight, a half hour from now, whether I’ll get a heart, whether I won’t get one.”

One of the biggest adjustments for Curl, his family said, has been being away from home. He’s been in and out of the hospital during the past year. During his recent hospital stay, framed photos of his family were placed on a bookshelf close to his bed. One photo showed the large pit in which he famously cooked barbecue at football games and team functions.

“He misses home and wants to be home,” Angela said. “It’s been hard and exhausting.”

So have the mounting medical bills. A heart transplant costs about $750,000. Even with health coverage, the cost for post-transplant care and medication will range from $2,000-$5,000 per month, according to estimates on the website

Medical bills


To offset some costs, Curl and his wife moved out of the family’s Seabrook home in November and into a two-bedroom apartment closer to his daughters and the hospital. The constant need for medication and care has exhausted the Curls’ savings.

“They couldn’t afford it anymore,” Angela said. “The medical bills have been outrageous.”

Some days have been good, but “there’s been plenty of bad ones, too,” Curl said.

“(My family) has seen the good sides and the bad sides, the crying and the depression,” Curl said before pausing, the only noise in the room a monitor beeping every few minutes. “They have seen all those cycles and all those sides, and there’s a part of me that just wants to fight like crazy. But they see the other side where you are so close to saying, ‘what’s the use?’ You fight and fight and you seem like you’re not getting any momentum. With the care of your family and doctors, I can see momentum.”

At the same time, Curl said it’s “incomprehensible” to fully understand what comes with a transplant.


other side

“It’s tough because you pray for a heart, but then you know what comes with that,” Jennifer Curl said. “You don’t want to pray for somebody else to have to go through what we’re not wanting to go through.”

Until then, all Curl and his family can do is wait.

“That would be the most wonderful day of my life because I know that’s what he wants so badly,” Lesa Curl, choking back tears, said of a heart becoming available. “I have struggled with this a lot because I have seen him struggle so badly. It’s like I will pray for God to just take him because it hurts so badly to see him like that.

“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. I don’t know if I could get here fast enough, because I would want to be here before they took him in.”

How to help

There are several ways for those interested in making a contribution to offset some of the medical costs for former University of Houston women’s basketball coach Joe Curl:

• Checks, along with a form that can be found on the website, can be mailed to:

Donation Fund Joe Curl

c/o Wells Fargo Bank

1600 Highway 146

Seabrook, Texas 77586

• Donations can be made by taking the printable form to any Wells Fargo location.

• Donations also can be made to the National Heart Transplant Foundation

For more information, visit

Copyright 2013, Houston Chronicle Publishing Com-pany, reprinted with permission, all right reserved.

Text Only
Local News
  • 4-16 beauty.jpeg Bursting with beauty

    A shining star already in her parents eyes,  Geraldine Nieto displayed her ray of beauty Sunday in Tyler to claim top status in the Sunburst Talent/Beauty Contest.
    The 5-year-old Athens resident is the daughter of Jaime and Karla Nieto.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dozens attend council meeting for recovery, transfer station

    Nathan Bullard, owner of Yellow Box Environmental LLC,  was at Gun Barrel City Hall to explain future development plans for property located at 546 Gun Barrel Lane.
    Bullard said he wanted to introduce himself and his company to the neighbors who own property close to his project.  
    Bullard was on hand to inform the public and address any concerns about the company’s plan to build a recovery and transfer station.

    April 16, 2014

  • Commissioners sign proclamation for San Jacinto Day

    The battle of the Alamo may be the best remembered conflict in Texas’ fight for independence, but the battle at San Jacinto closed the deal.
    Representatives of the Sons of the Republic of Texas were on hand at the Henderson County Commissioners Court meeting Tuesday in observance of a proclamation, declaring April 21, San Jacinto Day.

    April 16, 2014

  • Ram to donate $20 per test drive to FFA Organization

    On April 26 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. the Ram Truck brand and Elder Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram will host The Next Crop Project fundraising event at the dealership to benefit the National FFA Organization and local FFA chapter leadership programs in Henderson County.

    April 16, 2014

  • Athens tables large purchase

    The Athens City Council  Monday tabled awarding a bid for a large piece of equipment that removes asphalt from the surface of paved roads to make way for repairs.
    City Director of Utilities Glen Herriage recommended that the council award the bid to RDO Equipment Co. of Irving for a Road Hog cold planer. The RDO bid was for $123,267.06, which is below the budgeted amount of $134,000.

    April 15, 2014

  • 4-15 Joe Curl photo.jpg Former TVCC basketball coach Joe Curl passes

    Joe Curl, the former head coach of the Lady Cardinal basketball program, passed away at the age of 59 on Monday.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • ADR logo.tif Review earns six awards

    The Athens Daily Review was honored with six awards for journalism excellence during the North and East Texas Press Association yearly convention held Thursday-Saturday in Tyler.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mrs. Gibbs obit photo.jpg Mabank civic leader Alene Gibbs, 94, died Friday

    Long time Mabank civic leader Alene Gibbs passed away on Friday, April 11. She was born in Van Zandt County on Jan. 18, 1920. She was 94-years-old.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-14 Steer at auction 3.jpg Here comes the champs!

    Friday was a big night for the Eustace FFA at the Henderson County Livestock Show and for Jordyn Costlow, who presented the Grand Champion.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • ADR logo.tif Saturday was payday at HCLS

    Payday came Saturday for  the youth who placed in the 54th annual Henderson County Livestock Show.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

AP Video
Raw: Ferry Sinks Off South Korean Coast Town, Victims Remember Texas Blast Freeze Leaves Florida Panhandle With Dead Trees At Boston Marathon, a Chance to Finally Finish Are School Dress Codes Too Strict? Raw: Fatal Ferry Boat Accident Suspicious Bags Found Near Marathon Finish Line Boston Marks the 1st Anniversary of Bombing NYPD Ends Muslim Surveillance Program 8-year-old Boy Gets His Wish: Fly Like Iron Man Sex Offenders Arrested in Slayings of CA Women India's Transgenders Celebrate Historic Ruling Tributes Mark Boston Bombing Anniversary Raw: Kan. Shooting Suspect Faces Judge
Twitter Updates