Dec. 23, 2011


The Gift of Life


By Sean Ryan Co-Founder



Last Christmas, Nino Giarratano gave his father Mickey the gift of hope.


This Christmas, Nino, Mickey and the whole Giarratano family are celebrating the gift of life.


“I don’t know if words can explain how fortunate we are now,” said Nino Giarratano, entering his 14th year as head baseball coach at San Francisco. “It’s going to be a wonderful time for us to enjoy it this Christmas.”


A year ago, Nino, the youngest of Mickey and Josephine Giarratano’s four children had made a life-changing decision.


“I decided at Christmas last year at this time that I was going to be the one to give the kidney,” Giarratano said. “The decision to donate for me was not hard at all. As soon as I found out he needed a transplant, I was full speed ahead.”


Earlier that year, Mickey had gone into the hospital for what was supposed to be a simple gall bladder surgery. His kidneys failed right after surgery and Mickey, 80 at the time, spent the next 40 days in the hospital. He began a litany of dialysis treatments: three to four hours a day, three times a week.


“It started to wear him down,” Giarratano said. “It was a tough life.


In a typical year, Mickey would travel to watch his son’s Dons about three series a year. Mickey wasn’t able to travel from Pueblo, Colo., to watch San Francisco during the regular season in 2011.


When the Dons captured the West Coast Conference crown and earned a berth to the Los Angeles Regional, Mickey was able to sandwich dialysis treatments in L.A. on Friday and Denver on Monday with baseball – he was on hand to see San Francisco shut out UCLA to open Regional play and then drop two close games to UC Irvine and the Bruins.


The end of the season hastened the beginning of the more important game of life.


In early July, Giarratano flew to Denver for final testing to ensure that he would be a match for his father. As luck would have it, doctors said they could schedule the transplant the next week. On July 11, doctors transplanted a kidney from son to father.


Six months later, Mickey Giarratano is back to his old tricks. Nino said he enjoys drinking coffee and talking sports with his friends. “An assistant to the assistant GM of all three teams,” Nino jokes, his dad regular checks in on the Rockies, Nuggets and Broncos and is more than happy to talk Tim Tebow or Michael Cuddyer’s trade to the Rockies. He’s also back to playing golf, exercising and walking.


This Tuesday back in Pueblo for the holidays marked the first time since the week after surgery that Giarratano had seen his father. Just today, Mickey went to the doctor and received a clean bill of health, and if all goes well, he won’t have to go back to see the doctor for three months.


Giarratano said that “it’s a pretty emotional time between me and my father,” but there hasn’t been much talk with his father about the transplant. He admitted that other family members have been talking about it, though.


“Not many words need to be said between me and my father,” Giarratano said. “It was a gift. The true gift is everyone is healthy.”


And that is a gift worth celebrating this Christmas.