Summerall in Florida hospital for liver transplant

Updated: April 2, 2004, 2:49 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Pat Summerall, the veteran broadcaster once considered the voice of the NFL, was hospitalized in stable condition Friday awaiting a donor organ for a liver transplant.

The Dallas Morning News reported Friday that a donor was found in Florida and the transplant surgery is expected to occur this weekend.

Erik Kaldor, a spokesman for St. Luke's Hospital, confirmed Summerall, 73, is on the hospital's waiting list, but he could not say how long it would take before he receives a transplant. Through Wednesday, St. Luke's, which is owned by the Mayo Clinic, has performed 62 liver transplants this year.

Kaldor said Jacksonville has the shortest waiting list for liver transplants in the country.

"Don't bet against me," Summerall told Dallas Morning News columnist Frank Luksa on Wednesday from his hospital bed.

The broadcaster was flown Thursday by air ambulance to Jacksonville from Fort Worth, Texas, where he had been hospitalized in Methodist Medical Center's intensive case unit since early this week. Summerall is a recovering alcoholic.

Summerall is qualified for a transplant through blood tests that rank potential recipients anonymously with a computerized system known as the MELD Model, which raised the priority level for his transplant, Kaldor said.

Kaldor said Summerall's fame or age have nothing to do with his ranking on the transplant system. He said Summerall has an uncommon blood type, which would have to match a donor.

In 1992, Summerall was convinced by friends to enter the Betty Ford Treatment Center in California.

His wife said that April marks the broadcaster's 12th year of sobriety, but because alcoholism is a progressive disease, damage to his liver made a transplant necessary for survival.

"Alcoholism impacts people in all walks of life, from the homeless to the famous," the broadcaster's wife, Cheri Summerall, said in a prepared statement. "Pat wants everyone who has a problem with alcohol to know there is always hope, and organizations are standing by to help you."

Pat Summerall also discussed his alcoholism with The Morning News.

"I didn't think I needed help," he told Luksa. "I agreed to go with much anger and bitterness. Some of the things they told me at Betty Ford were that I had to find new friends, playgrounds and playmates. I wondered until about the last five days if I could live that life. I wasn't sure I'd ever laugh again.

"Then I realized I needed help. That there was a supreme being and He could help me."

Summerall also told the newspaper that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and head coach Bill Parcells have provided emotional support. Jones even gave Summerall the use of his private plane.

Summerall played in the NFL for 10 years before becoming a broadcaster, then spent more than 40 years in the booth. He teamed with John Madden to call Fox's lead game during 1994-2001, and they were the No. 1 team on CBS for 13 seasons before that. The two called eight Super Bowls together, and Summerall has called a total of 15.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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