miller transplant

A Kidney for Your Birthday

That’s my dad (Dennis Miller) on the right shortly after we didn’t see any deer all day while hunting last fall. On Saturday he underwent kidney transplant surgery after being on the organ transplant list for four years. He will be 65 on June 15 and is doing great.                                             Monte Miller Photo.

So how did you spend your Saturday?

My dad, Dennis Miller, spent his getting a kidney transplant after being on the organ transplant list for about four years.

Let me first say a huge thank you to Dr. Henry Randall and the entire Abdominal Transplant Team at St. Louis University Hospital, all of the nurses and other staff on the seventh floor and anyone else associated with this amazing event in his and my family’s life.

The support and encouragement the wonderful people at SLU have given us throughout the past four years has been amazing from our very first assessment to the continuing care for the foreseeable future.

The Call

Second, let me say, after many years of watching medical dramas on movies and television, Saturday’s events were nothing like I thought they would be.

We got the call from the transplant coordinator at 6:40 Saturday morning and to be honest, the next 12 hours were a bit of a blur.

We dove to SLU and just before 11 a.m., we were placed in a room on the seventh floor and then the real tornado of activity began.

Before we could even sit down, the charge nurse swooped in and began taking vitals and blood samples to be passed on to the labs.

She gave us a rough rundown of what we could expect to happen in the next few hours, who we would be talking to and where we would be going.

After X-rays, EKGs, poking, proding and being asked the same questions about five times, I overheard Dad had a 1:15 p.m. surgery time.

It was starting to get real.


Let me go backward a bit.

Dad, who will turn 65 next Thursday, was diagnosed with Stage 4 kidney failure brought on by diabetes and high blood pressure.

Since then, he had a fistula installed in his left arm and has required kidney dialysis three days a week for four hours per session.

Another huge thank you to all of the staff at DaVita Dialysis in Festus, who administered his dialysis.

I have never met any of them, and I don’t know their names, but I hope they know that their kindness and dedication to Dad is appreciated by him and our family.

The frequent dialysis treatments helped keep other problems in check and other than that dad was healthy and felt good 95 percent of the time, which is not normally the case in kidney failure patients.

We are fortunate that he was able to remain active and lived a pretty normal life except for being hooked up to the machine three times a week.

He loves to mow his grass and tinker on small engines and tractors in his barn and we also like to do a lot of sport shooting.


At 1:30 p.m. they came to take Dad to surgery. We were told it would take three to four hours for the prep, surgery and recovery before he would go back up to intensive care.

At 3 p.m. I was told the surgery had officially begun and the waiting began.

Being a Saturday, I had the waiting room to myself and the history channel had an “American Pickers” marathon on.

Combine that with some peanut M&Ms and it was actually quite nice.

Unlike other times I had been in hospitals with family members, I was feeling very positive and to be honest was so reassured by Dr. Randall, who is the director of Adult and Pediatric Abdominal Transplant Program at SLU, that I was very relaxed.

Just before 6 p.m., Dr. Randall came in and told me the surgery couldn’t have gone better. Dad was doing fine and most importantly, the new kidney was already functioning as it should.

So fast forward a few hours and by 8:30 p.m. Dad was awake, talking and in his ICU room for the recovery.

As part of the recovery, they are obviously monitoring the new kidney as well as filling him up with anti-rejection medications.

One of which is Anti-thymocyte globulin, that is derived from horse or rabbit (yes I said horse or rabbit) antibodies against human T cells, but that is a whole other story. Google it if you don’t believe me.     

Since then, Dad has been recovering at rocket speed and the nurses say they have never seen a transplant patient do this well.

He has been moved to a regular room and should come home this weekend.


Well, as you have read, Dad’s kidney transplant was nothing like the movie scenes I pictured.

There was a lot of waiting, I found out later, to assure the kidney was viable and healthy.

There was no masked and scrubbed team of docs with scalpel in hand waiting in a dimly lit operating room.

The organ wasn’t sitting on ice just waiting for the patient to be breathlessly rushed in by a team of orderlies.

Instead the surgical team was laid back, uplifting and positive like they do it every day (apparently they do) and it was just another day at the office.

All Joking Aside

In all seriousness, I understand for my dad to be given a second chance at life, someone else had to lose theirs.

As my family was celebrating, on the other side of the city another was mourning the death of a beloved father, son or brother.

All we were told was the donor was a young man in his 20s. We will most likely never meet the donor’s family but I want them to know from the bottom of our hearts, the Miller family appreciates the gift your family member has given to ours.

I also hope this encourages all those who may be on a transplant waiting list to never give up because at any time you could get the call.

And one more thing, if you are not currently an organ donor, consider it. It does make a difference.