When most people think about giving gifts, something like a scarf or a gift card comes to mind, but no gift could replace the one USF baseball coach Nino Giarratano gave to his father last week.
Giarratano and his father, Mickey, went into surgery at Porter Adventist Hospital in Denver on July 11 for a kidney transplant, a procedure that would change Mickey’s life forever.
Last fall, Mickey, 80, went into the hospital for a routine gallbladder surgery, but following the surgery, his kidneys failed.
Mickey was started on dialysis and what was supposed to be a one- or two-night stay, turned into 40 nights. After his extended stay, he was told he would have to return to the hospital three times a week for a five-hour dialysis treatment.
This was unacceptable for Nino, and he told Mickey and his mother, Josephine, that he would give one of his kidneys to his father.
“The day he came back from the doctor and said the only way he could live was on dialysis is the day I said I would do it,” Nino said.
It was not a tough decision for Nino, but it was something he did not want to become a distraction. He limited the amount of people he told, and some did not find out until a few days before he left for Colorado.
One of those was his daughter, Bianca, who was the hardest to tell.
“I didn’t tell my daughter until three days before I left for Colorado,” Nino said. “I didn’t want to scare her. I didn’t want her to have to worry about it.”
But Nino’s family did worry, especially the day of the surgery.
“It was hard on my wife, hard on my daughter,” Nino said. “My mom had the roughest day.”
Nino was very confident in his decision, and trepidation did not set in until minutes before the surgery.
“Not until they were wheeling me into the operating room was I scared,” Nino said. “Right until the end I was thinking about my family.”
Mickey, along with his working kidney, was able to walk out of the hospital only days after the surgery, but for the next month has to return for daily checkups. Nino was out of the hospital in two days and has been active since, bike riding each day.
Nino made it a point to work with his doctors after he was deemed a suitable donor to have the surgery right after the baseball season was over.
As the Dons kept playing, the doctors were more than willing to accommodate Nino and Mickey.
Mickey even went down to Los Angeles to cheer on his son’s team in the NCAA regionals. Nino and Mickey left for Colorado soon after the Dons were eliminated by UCLA.
What Nino could not have predicted was the amount of support that came from in and out of the USF community.
“It’s been unbelievable how many people this would touch,” Nino said.
Fellow coaches, family, friends and administrators among others called and wrote expressing their support for Nino’s decision.
“I hope they take a few life lessons away,” Nino said. “How important the family structure is.”
13 Seasons Nino Giarratano has coached at USF
368 Victories Giarratano has compiled at USF
2 NCAA Tournament appearances during Giarratano’s tenure