Coach donates kidney to improve life for his 80-year-old father

University of San Francisco coach Nino Giarratano (left) joins hands with his father, Mickey Giarratano, after Nino donated one of his kidneys to his 80-year-old father.



SAN FRANCISCO — Mickey Giarratano never would have asked one of his children for a kidney. That’s not his nature, and Nino Giarratano knew it.

That’s why the son stepped in and made the decision for his ailing father, offering up one of his healthy kidneys so his 80-year-old dad could live a longer, more normal life.

Giarratano makes tough calls all the time as a college baseball coach at the University of San Francisco. When it involved putting his own life on the line, his wife and grown daughter initially couldn’t understand making such a sacrifice. Especially doing so for someone who already had lived a full life, even if it was his father. Still, it’s something Giarratano would do all over again.

“If it didn’t work out health-wise for me, I could live with that,” Giarratano said. “It’s kind of that athletic mentality. ... I’ve just been lucky to be around sports my whole life. I’ve been lucky with the decisions I’ve made to do what I do. I was healthy. So, I always knew if anyone could recover, I would be the quickest recovery in the family – based on age, based on my lifestyle. So it worked out pretty good.”

He is doing great relying on one kidney. Giarratano returned to running on the treadmill six weeks post-op to make sure he was “healthy for fall practice and ready to go” at the start of his 14th season at San Francisco.

“I’m up to about 15 miles per week, and feeling great,” Giarratano, the reigning West Coast Conference coach of the year, said this week. “I am so lucky to have this opportunity to give back to my dad.”

The 49-year-old Giarratano decided he wanted to provide this gift not only to his father but also to his mother, Josephine, who had handled the bulk of the care for her ill husband.

They had given up so much for Giarratano and his three older siblings along the way.

“I wasn’t surprised at all. That’s just the type of person he is,” said former San Francisco outfielder Jonnie Knoble. “His dad had given him so much, he felt he owed it to him. Not a lot of kids would do that.”

Paul Meyer, one of Giarratano’s close friends and a longtime San Francisco supporter, has known the coach for 15 years and was moved to hear about the kidney donation.

“There’s no greater gesture of love than when you give a kidney to your 80-year-old father so he can live 10 more years and see his grandkids and great-grandkids,” Meyer said. “That’s the amazing part.”

“If it wasn’t for Nino, none of this would have happened,” said Mickey Giarratano, crying. “As my doctor in Denver said, ‘You tell Nino he was the man.’ And it’s true. I’m sure other people feel the same way when they get a donor.”