Meet the coach's wife who's willing to donate her kidney to Billy Gillispie

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A stranger wants to give former Kentucky basketball coach Billy Gillispie her kidney.

Ericka Downey with her husband and children (Family photo)

"It was a tug on my heart."

Ericka Downey felt an unmistakable call to action when she read an article in mid-December about former Kentucky basketball coach Billy Gillispie. Gillispie found out late in 2017 he needed a kidney transplant.

"I was cleaning my closet that day just doing some housework and took a break from that, sat down on the floor and was going through my phone," Downey said, "I came across this story of him urgently needing a kidney."

The 33-year-old Oklahoma mother of two is married to coach Mark Downey at Northeastern State University. When she saw the report, she began to consider donating her kidney.

"I know that I'm led through this process by my faith, and if you're doing it for the right reasons I really feel like all these things will be taken care of," said Downey.

She decided to undergo testing, and she later found out she and Gillespie are a match.


"It's kind of crazy, but I really think the college basketball community understands that we just take care of each other," Downey said, "That's what we do."

Downey has never met Gillispie, but they have talked on the phone about her decision to give him the gift of life.

"Every time he has been incredibly humble and thankful and just blown away that someone would help him in this manner," Downey said.

Downey still has to meet with a transplant team March 26 in Minnesota to undergo more testing, but if those tests come back favorably, she wants to schedule surgery to perform the transplant as soon as possible.