Matt Millen on heart transplant: “I can’t waste this opportunity”

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Longtime NFL linebacker and former Lions General Manager Matt Millen is a week removed from heart transplant surgery.

And as he recovers, he told Peter King of NBC’s Football Morning in America that he hopes to make the most of the second chance he’s been given. He waited six months for a transplant, which he got on Christmas Eve.

I have not been spared for nothing,” Millen said. “I feel like I have more of a purpose now—I just have to find out what it is. I’ve got to figure out what my Holy Grail is for the rest of my life. I can’t waste this opportunity.

“I know I am lucky to be here. When my doctor took out my heart, he saw how much it was damaged. It was awful. He said I must have tremendous reserve from training. That thing was so stiff and hard the doc didn’t know how it was still contracting to pump the blood.”

The 60-year-old Millen said his transplant came from a 26-year-old male who died of a drug overdose, and that reality creates a guilt in some transplant patients.

“No, not melancholy,” he said. “More of a feeling that I’ve been given an incredible gift. There is a purpose to it. . . .

“Think of the thought he had to put into this, to be a donor. He took the time to let it be known he wanted his heart to go to someone if he died, so they could live. What a gift. I’m going to figure out what to do about it.”

Millen was even able to joke about his condition now relative to his football days, saying he remembered taking a shot to the chest from Washington fullback Otis Wonsley in the Super Bowl which was more painful than the life-saving surgery he just had.

“That was painful,” Millen said. “This is more uncomfortable.”

We wish Millen the best in his continued recovery, as well as send thoughts to the family of the donor, who gave Millen a second chance.

10 responses to “Matt Millen on heart transplant: “I can’t waste this opportunity”

  1. My son had a heart transplant in 2004 when he was just 24 and he is still with us. It was a very difficult time for all of us and he had a pump inside of him keeping him alive for 22 months while he waited for a heart. Until you go through it, you don’t understand how difficult it is because you know the only way your loved one can get a new heart is for someone else to die. You lose a lot of sleep thinking about that, trust me.
    The only way I felt I could ever pay back the donor and his family was to become a donor myself. So that’s what I did and if I can give sight after my passing to someone who hasn’t been able to see, or they can use my skin for a burn victim, or they can use one of my other organs to give new life to someone, I can’t think of a more precious gift I could ever give to anyone.
    I urge all of you to consider becoming a donor. Approximately 7500 people die every year because there aren’t enough donors. It’s amazing what these doctors can do to improve the quality of life for many people from just one donor. Thank you for reading this and considering becoming a donor. And best of luck to Matt Millen.

  2. You stole quite a few years from me as a Lions fan Matt, and we like to rag on you about it, but that’s no big deal. This is real life stuff. Get better big fella, I hope the years ahead of you are your best and you find that Holy Grail.

  3. What a great story, hats off to the family.

    All the best to you moving forward, Matt.

    One nation, Raider Nation.

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