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It’s been quite a month for Nathan Miller.
The former Mid-Prairie student, now 30 and living in St. Louis, MO, underwent a heart transplant surgery the day before celebrating his 1-year anniversary with his wife Michelle on April 16.
The couple are also expecting their first child, due on Mother’s Day.
The story is an incredible one, and it has garnered some attention. A local Kansas City station did a story on Miller and Miller’s half-brother, Eric Graham, posted constant updates on Nate’s condition.
“It gave me an escape even for just a couple hours per day,” Graham said. “We see and hear a lot of the bad that comes with social media, but this is one example that shows the immense power of social media that can bring people together for a common thought or cause.”
One person who wanted to help the Millers’ cause was Eliza Russell. Russell, based in Wyoming, was friends with Graham on Facebook and as the owner of Vintage Body Care in Casper, she offered to donate 50 percent of her sales from May 6-8 to the Millers for their expenses. Their story was one that hit home for her.
“Before I opened up Vintage Body Care, I was a flight nurse. I often flew transplant recipients from rural areas to the hospital where they would get their transplants,” she said. “I also flew the donors, knowing that extreme attention to their care was a must so that we could keep their organs working and in a state ready for do nation.”
Jill Stratton-Dalton with Premier Design Jewelry has known Eric Graham and his wife through the school their kids attended in Colorado together for six years.
“I was really inspired by his story and his journey. I thought it was a pretty incredible story,” she said.
In following that story, she saw Russell’s offer to donate some of her profits. Russell’s fundraiser was the final push she needed. She had been contemplating her own fundraiser when she saw the post about Vintage Body Care and immediately contacted Graham to get involved. Dalton offered to donate all profits from sales from May 2-7.
For Graham, it’s still hard to believe the length both the Russell and Stratton-Dalton went through. Their efforts along with the well wishes he’s seen, through his personal page and then through the domiNATE page, from acquaintances blew his mind.
“People tend to step up when it matters most, and in this case these women did that and beyond. It can be amazing what one small comment can do for a person’s day, or even a life. We are just so grateful for everyone who has played even a small part in the healing process, and every bit matters,” he said.
The power of positivity and its ability to heal, is one that Miller backed up wholeheartedly.
“To be honest, it’s been completely overwhelming,” he said. “It’s been amazing the support I’ve gotten. To be honest, I wouldn’t be to the point I’m at right now without it. The generosity, the prayers, the good vibes that have been sent my way have really helped me through this a lot.”
Miller’s operation went off without a hitch and the early stages of rehab have shown no setbacks.
15 years ago, Miller helped get AEDs throughout the Mid-Prairie district, and even though Miller says that is still a “top priority,” his latest experience has also turned him into an advocate for a new cause.
Miller spent just 16 days waiting for his heart, but that is often not the case. Patients in need of a heart can wait as long as 4 to six months for the heart they so desperately need. The fact the group hopes to raise awareness for.
“It’s important to register in your state as well as putting it on your driver’s license,” Miller said.
Miller also said that despite the fact that the conversation is an uncomfortable one, it’s one people need to have.
Graham said the experience opened up “a whole new world” for him and they are hopeful to be able to leverage their platform to help raise more awareness.
“We all feel compelled to give back for so much that has been given to us,” Graham said.
As for Russell, she wants to use her platform to continue to raise awareness. One way is to increase awareness for those involved in the donation process.
“The donor families have given the ultimate gift to so many people, but many forget there will still be medical bills, funeral costs and time off of work for grieving when all of the organs are given to new recipients,” she said.
Russell said she hopes to team with Graham and the Millers to start a non-profit to help all those in any way a part of organ donation.
If you would like to follow Nate’s story or their advocacy, you can like the page on Facebook @domiNATEandDonate.