He sought help, which led him to study psychiatry and substance abuse disorders and to teach psychiatry at the University of Chicago and at what is now Rush Medical College. He helped found the Chicago rehabilitation program Haymarket Center and an Illinois medical society program to help physicians struggling with substance abuse and other problems.
"It was very controversial," West told the Catholic New World newspaper in 2004. "We had many doctors who supported it, but many were against it. The clergy in particular opposed this procedure.... It was like, once it was dead, it should stay dead."
Although the transplanted kidney failed after several months, it served as a temporary bridge, enabling Tucker's other remaining kidney to begin functioning properly again. She lived five more years.
Within days of the operation, the national press was reporting that the transplant was "the first of its kind," but it was one of a small number of such pioneering procedures. A 1954 Boston case involving twin brothers is widely recognized as the first successful kidney transplant. The procedure is now relatively commonplace, with more than 66,000 performed in 2005, according to the World Health Organization.
Fellow surgeon Lawler served as godfather to Bill, one of six children West had with his wife, Shirley. They had been married 58 years when she died at 81 in 1997.
Late in life, West continued to study the four-string banjo, which he played at Little Company of Mary as a member of an all-physician Dixieland jazz band called the Emergency Room All Stars.
When asked how he was doing, West could be counted on to reply, "Never better" or "tip-top."
He is survived by his second wife, Maureen, whom he married in 1998; his six children; two stepdaughters; nine grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and a sister.
A memorial service will be held at 12:30 p.m. Aug. 25 at Sacred Heart Church, 43775 Deep Canyon Road, Palm Desert.