The voice on the other end of the line had the familiar gregarious nature and wanted to talk hockey.
“I’m hopeful but skeptical that they can pull it off,’’ Pat Micheletti said of the NHL’s play to return to play. “If they can do it, hallelujah.’’
“Hallelujah’’ also can be associated with Micheletti, the former Gophers great who on Wednesday celebrated an important anniversary. On May 27, 2015, Micheletti received a kidney transplant from his brother, Jerry, and five years later, he is enjoying his new lease on life.
“I just talked to my brother, and we reminisced a little bit,’’ Micheletti said, describing how he celebrated the milestone. “We’re just grateful. It was a good day.’’
There are lots of good days now for Micheletti, 56, whose work includes hockey coverage analysis on KFXN-FM, plus spreading the word about donating organs.
Micheletti, whose 120 goals and 269 points both rank second in Gophers history, spent two years in the minor leagues, played 12 games for the North Stars and finished his career in 1992 after four seasons in Italy. Hockey took a toll on his body, and he required 14 knee surgeries along the way.
“After one of my last surgeries, the doctor said, ‘You’re done. You have a knee of an 80-year-old. You need a new knee,’ ’’ the Hibbing, Minn., native said. “We discussed [a knee replacement], and the longer that I could wait the better, because I was so young.’’
Along with the waiting, Micheletti relied on Ibuprofen to help ease the pain. Overuse took a toll on his kidneys.
“From when I was 30 to 40, I was just in pain, pain, pain. Didn’t know any better,’’ he said, referring to his pain reliever usage. “Sure enough when I turned 50, my family said, ‘You look terrible.’ I didn’t think I was feeling bad, but I had lost a lot of weight and was tired. My wife and my brother made me go to Mayo, and just like that after one urine and blood test, they knew I was Stage 4 kidney [failure]. That was a shocker, no question.’’
Down from his usual 185 pounds to 135 in the summer of 2014, Micheletti went through the long process of finding a match for a donor. Jerry, nine years his elder, turned out to be that match after months of testing.
“My brother had to go through unbelievable amounts of testing to make sure he was OK, that his kidney was OK and that he was healthy enough to do it,’’ Micheletti said. “… That whole process was mentally straining on all of us.’’
Surgery came the following May, and Micheletti was on the road to recovery.
“It was quite emotional when it was done. Right before surgery we were literally right next to each other in the pre-op room,’’ Pat said of he and Jerry. “I looked at him, and I didn’t know what to say and he didn’t know what to say. It was pretty intense.’’
Five years later, Micheletti is doing well, though he has to be extra cautious, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, because of a suppressed immune system.
He encourages people to become organ donors and recommends the life-source.org website for those interested.
“The waiting list when I was getting my transplant was 3-5 years. Now, it’s 5-7 years,’’ he said. “There are a lot of people out there who aren’t as lucky as I am.’’