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Ferndale man receives first beating heart transplant in Michigan history

Posted at 6:16 PM, Jun 25, 2024

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Ferndale's Ken Miller is now the recipient of the first beating heart transplant in Michigan history.

Not only that, he's now one of the few people in the country to ever undergo the surgery that is expected to provide better outcomes and access to donor hearts.

"I felt blessed and privileged to get the procedure because I feel like I have a better chance of survival," Miller told 7 News Detroit.

Miller received the surgery at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit on May 31st, his 58th birthday. He received it after an excruciating time period of not being able to do what he loves, like walk his dog chip, or move much in general.

He shared, "That was probably the toughest part because they put me on a heart pump, and with a heart pump you have to lay in bed and you can’t sit up or move, and I was on that for 25 days."

But now, his future looks bright!

Cardiac surgeon Dr. Kyle Miletic led Miller's beating heart transplant surgery and did a second one weeks later.

"The beating heart transplant is different because the heart is literally beating the whole time that we’re putting it into the body," said Miletic. "Now in a traditional heart transplant, you have to stop the heart."

Miletic said that when a heart is stopped in traditional heart surgery, it's damaged. By never stopping the heart during a beating heart transplant, patients like Miller will potentially have a greatly improved outcome.

Miletic said the technique is more difficult, but will allow more people to get heart transplants. Right now approximately 3,500 people in the U.S. are waiting for one.

"There is a huge unmet need now with over 100,000 people every year being diagnosed throughout the United States with heart failure, but only about 2,000 heart transplants are performed every year," said Miletic.

Now, three weeks post-surgery, Miller told 7 New Detroit he is feeling better than he has in a long time. He said he's excited to get home and take his dog Chip on those long wonderful walks once again.

"I look forward to just being able to move, walk, go upstairs, all the things we take for granted," said Miller.

Miller's daughter has started an online fundraiser to help cover Miller's medical costs. You can find that fundraiser here.

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