By Erika Hirschman for the Midland Daily News
Not only does former Midlander and Bullock Creek High School 1978 graduate, Michael Milliken, believe complaining does him no good; it drains him of the positive energy that he desperately needs to survive. Milliken’s reality is that his kidney is failing him.
There’s plenty to wear him down daily; the side effects of medications and in-home dialysis that keeps him awake for most of the night, and the financial stress of being unemployed.
Milliken, 50, who now makes his home in Polk County, Florida with his wife, Jessica, has lived in the sunshine state since his early twenties. He moved south after joining his father’s business in the 80’s. He says moving away from the long, dreary Michigan winters and into the warm weather was just what his upbeat personality longer for.
Always thought of as a healthy person who rarely went in for check-ups, Milliken’s philosophy was: “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. “ After a rare and serious strep infection some 14 years ago that traveled to a kidney, Milliken’s health issues began.
Doctors determined that Milliken would need a kidney transplant and began searching for a match. His younger brother, Chris “made the loving choice to become a donor,” he says, and “thus saved my life.” The match and surgery was relatively simple and considered a success. His brother, Chris, has since been healthy and needs no daily medications.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a kidney transplant is an operation that places a healthy kidney in the body. The transplanted kidney takes over the work of the two kidneys that failed, and the patient no longer needs dialysis.
During the transplant, the surgeon places the new kidney of the patient in the lower abdomen and connects the artery and vein of the new kidney to the artery and vein. Often, the new kidney will start making urine as soon as the blood starts flowing through it; sometimes taking a few weeks to start working.
Many transplanted kidneys come from donors who have died. Some come from a living family member.
At that time, Milliken took medications to keep his body from rejecting the new kidney and his brother had no side effects or medications to take to this day, says Milliken. Some 17 months ago, the kidney that was not transplanted developed cancer, began to fail and now Milliken needs another transplant. However, family members cannot donate because of an antibody issue that makes it risky for Milliken.
He’s being treated using IVIg, which is a plasma product formed by taking antibodies from about 20,000 donors and mixing them together. IVIg has proven effective in several immune system disorders. There is a window of opportunity usually within the first 18 months during which IVIg administration is ideal. The longer you wait to treat with IVIg the longer it will take for IVIg to work.
“I really won the lottery with that one, didn’t I?” “Life is not fair. It sucks. I was angry for a long time. I was in denial. But I have to have a positive attitude; if you look at me you wouldn’t know I was sick. I’m so lucky to have my wife and the support she gives me.”
Milliken says his neighbors, friends and especially his mom, MaryAnne Milliken-Carter, a Sanford resident give him the support and love he needs. If it weren’t for his mom, or the kindness of his cousin Christine Worsley, who was tested to become a donor without success; “I bless them all. People are so self-less and amazing. I try every day, and try to maintain a positive attitude. I can’t give up and have a pity party.”
For now, Milliken waits patiently with hope. He hopes that his treatment works, for blood test results that allow him to move ahead for transplant, and especially for an organ match.
For more information on how to help Milliken, or on kidney donation, call 1-407-303-3603 or visit: http://www.umm.edu/transplant/kidney/qanda.htm
His mother, Milliken-Carter says it’s been “horrible as a parent to watch your child go through this.” She calls Michael “a strong, amazing, positive person. I don’t know how he does it.” She wishes she could help him by donating a kidney. “I would do it in a heart beat if I could.” But can’t because of the antibody risk.
She says to people who may consider helping someone by donating a kidney: “It’s a simple blood test for people to be checked. There’s nothing to be afraid of, and there’s no cost to the donor.” Milliken says all costs would be covered and it’s a two-day stay in the hospital. “And if the donor ever develops any kidney issues, they go to the top of the national registry to receive a new kidney.” “Please, sign up to be an organ donor, you can save another’s life with this gift.” said Milliken-Carter.
Milliken stays busy daily by rebuilding cars and turning “junk into art.” Working on old cars gives him peace of mind, keeps his hands busy and is a distraction from the fight of his life.