Pat Summerall Awaits Transplant

FOX Sports announcer Pat Summerall, 1999/1/29
AP
Pat Summerall, the veteran broadcaster once considered the voice of the NFL, faces weekend surgery for a liver transplant in Florida.

A spokesman said early Friday that the exact surgery schedule for Summerall, 73, is uncertain. But the broadcaster was flown Thursday by air ambulance to Jacksonville, Fla., for the procedure at the Mayo Clinic.

A source close to the family told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in Friday's editions that Summerall had been on a waiting list for a donor liver.

A recovering alcoholic, Summerall had been hospitalized in Methodist Medical Center's intensive care unit since early this week, according to a hospital spokesman.

Summerall's family has been supportive during his illness.

"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."

Summerall, of Southlake, 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, according to The Dallas Morning News' Friday editions.

Sandy Montag, Summerall's longtime agent, confirmed Summerall's transplant plans to The Associated Press.

"It's been a difficult time for the Summerall family," said Montag. "But I think the support of family and friends have been very important to Pat and his family at this time."

Rick Ericson, another family spokesman, said it was uncertain when the weekend surgery would take place.

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.

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 from 1994-01, 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 16.

Hospitals treated 360,000 Americans for chronic liver disease in 2000, the most recent year for which the National Center for Health Statistics reports data. Some 29,000 died in the U.S. from liver ailments in 2001. There were about 5,000 liver transplants in 2001.