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Ferndale man receives Michigan’s first beating heart in groundbreaking transplant surgery

Kenneth Ray Miller

Ken Miller in a photo with his wife at a formal event. The photo is marked April 14 2011.

“I woke up on my 58th birthday to a new heart, a new kidney…a new lease on life.”

On May 31, Ken Miller received the gift of life through a first-in-Michigan beating heart transplant and a kidney transplant.

The procedure is a new advancement with only 70 beating heart transplants performed so far.

Traditionally, a deceased organ donor’s heart is removed and transported on ice to the location of a heart transplant, which limits distance and viability – and decreases the availability of organs to the patients waiting for a transplant.

The beating heart or “heart in a box” transplant procedure instead keeps the donor heart pumping while it is in transit.

The procedure keeps the donor heart healthier, which reduces the odds of post-transplant complications such as strokes and damage to other organs.

Ken was a unique candidate for the procedure because cardiac damage had caused his heart to grow larger, which left more room for surgeons to work.

He experienced a heart attack in 2013 and had to retire from his career – but Ken says he never gave up hope of a healthier and brighter future. That hope is now beating in his chest.

“I’m excited to go home and relax and get back to normal — to see my children and grandchildren, to sit and play my guitar again. I’m so grateful to these doctors to be able to say that,” he said.

“I think it’s simply a miracle.”

Ken is fundraising with Help Hope Live for post-transplant medical costs not fully covered by insurance.

Written by Emily Progin