Pat Micheletti, the former Gophers great and current local hockey analyst, is resting comfortably at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester after undergoing a kidney transplant this morning.
The kidney was donated by Micheletti’s 62-year-old brother, Jerry.
“It’s incredible,” said Alex Micheletti, Pat’s grateful 24-year-old son. “That’s unconditional love right there. He saved my dad’s life.”
Pat Micheletti, 51, discovered last fall that both of his kidneys were functioning at 13 percent, his brother, Tom, said Wednesday. In excruciating pain for the past five years, Pat thought he had hip issues.
“His wife [Kathi] and I made a deal with him,” said Tom Micheletti. “We said, ‘If this latest [cortisone] shot doesn’t do the trick, you’ve got to agree to go to Mayo.’ He’s been very ill and weighed about 130 pounds. He played at 180. Within the first few days of him being at Mayo, they diagnosed him.”
Pat Micheletti, the second-leading scorer in Gophers history, is part of the 1500 ESPN broadcasting crew for Gophers hockey games and co-hosts Beyond the Pond and Wild FANLINE on KFAN (100.3-FM).
“Despite the pain he was in, he battled through those radio shows and staying up late to do the FANLINE because he loved doing it,” Alex Micheletti said. “I think he missed only one show throughout this whole thing. He wasn’t getting very much sleep. It’s been tough.”
Doctors believe Pat Micheletti’s kidneys were failing because of years of taking the over-the-counter pain reliever, Motrin (ibuprofen), to deal with discomfort stemming from his hockey-playing career. Alex said his dad plans to start making hockey players aware of the dangers of taking too much ibuprofen.
“Pat plans to get involved in other charities [for kidney awareness], too,” said Tom, the oldest of nine children and former Harvard player.
It’s been a difficult couple months for the Micheletti siblings, Tom, Jim, Andy, Jerry, Joe, Don, Andrea and Pat. Their sister, Jean, died of cancer in March.
“There’s been some big family stuff, but this is a good one,” said Tom Micheletti. “This was an extremely emotional experience to go through and such an ordeal. You have one brother in one room giving his kidney to save another brother’s life.
“But Jerry did it for the baby of the family, which makes it more special. We were kidding, Pat’s been the one babied his whole life and we’re doing it again when he’s 50-something. We can’t seem to stop ourselves.”
Jerry played hockey at the Air Force and is still very much involved with the Air Force.
“When we went into the room to see my Uncle Jerry, he knew all of our names and the first thing he asked was, ‘Did they comb my hair?’ He wanted to look good,” Alex said, laughing. “I’m proud to be part of this big family. I’ve been a nervous wreck, but it’s been really nice to have [my family] here to cheer me up.”
Doctors say Jerry’s kidney was in great condition and is functioning perfectly after surgery. Pat Micheletti, who also has two daughters -- Lindsey and Katie, is awake with family at his side. He is expected to spend a month at Mayo Clinic.
“We got him down to the best medical facility in the world,” Tom Micheletti said. “It’s unbelievable here. There’s just nothing like it anywhere. Just phenomenal.”
“I can’t thank the doctors and nurses here enough,” added Alex. “They’re amazing. They saved my dad.’”
Micheletti was inducted into the University of Minnesota “M” Club Hall of Fame last Oct. 9. The Hibbing native ranks second all-time in Gophers history with 120 goals and 269 points. His 149 assists rank third in the program’s history. His 48 goals and 96 points in 1984-85 rank second for a single season in Gophers history.
That season, Micheletti was First Team All-WCHA, First Team All-America and a Hobey Baker finalist.
Above: Pat Micheletti and his 24-year-old son, Alex, are all smiles after the kidney surgery. Photo courtesy of Alex Micheletti.