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.