Panthers owner Richardson out of hospital following heart transplant

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson cleared another hurdle in his recovery from a heart transplant Thursday when he was released from the hospital, 12 days after the surgery.

Richardson left Carolinas Medical Center and was resting at home after doctors determined his body was accepting the new heart. A team spokesman said Richardson has responded well to treatment and will continue to be monitored by doctors.

The full recovery period takes between three and six months.

The 72-year-old Richardson, a former teammate of Johnny Unitas with the Baltimore Colts and the first ex-NFL player since George Halas to own a team, had a history of heart trouble. He underwent quadruple bypass surgery in 2002 and last year had a pacemaker installed.

But Richardson remained sapped of energy, one of the symptoms of congestive heart failure, and was placed on a donor waiting list in December.

A matching heart was found in less than two months, just shy of the average wait, according to United Network for Organ Sharing. Richardson had the surgery on Super Bowl Sunday in a five-hour procedure.

Richardson will likely be required to have numerous hospital visits over the next year. Most patients have routine biopsies to closely monitor any signs of rejection of the new organ or infection, according to Ted Frank, a cardiologist and medical director of heart transplantation at Carolinas Medical Center.

Richardson, who was awarded the expansion Panthers franchise in 1993, became one of the NFL's most influential owners.

Support from around the league poured in while he awaited his transplant, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell received text messages during the Super Bowl updating him on Richardson's condition during the surgery.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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