Al Milek is most than just a retired insurance financial analyst. He is a modern medical miracle. After a massive heart attack, which Al should theoretically not survived, he received a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) to keep his heart pumping. When it failed, Al and his medical team had only one place left to turn: a heart transplant.
“I was placed high on the transplant list and received my heart in 20 days. I was in a drug induced coma for 47 days and woke up with a new heart,” Milek said, now celebrating his six years since receiving his new gift of life. Al represents one of 75 individuals to receive heart transplants in 2006 here in North Carolina. Since then, over 400 more men and women underwent heart transplants at our state’s five transplant centers.
Even with high transplant success rates, the need for organ donors grows continuously, as 18 people die each day waiting. Transplant recipients like Al work hard to educate communities about the need for transplants and the heroic efforts organ donors play in lives like his. To honor his donor and to show his new life, Al will be competing with three other transplant recipients for Team Carolinas at the Transplant Games of America 2012 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, July 28 – 31. Al will be competing in several swimming events as well as the two track events, including the 400 meter dash. He sees the race as “once around the track for my donor.”
This will not be Al’s first experience in the transplant games. The 2006 U.S. Transplant Games took place the same weekend he received his heart, and once he heard about the event, Al vowed to participate in the next games. He achieved his goal by participated in the 2008 and 2010 games in swimming, cycling, and track events, bringing hope a bronze medal in the 400 meter dash.
“My transplant allowed me to continue my life that we thought was over. Since my transplant both my children were married and I now have two grandsons. I participate in church activities and assist in leading the local Boy Scout Troop. I have been greatly blessed. I close every letter and email with Celebrate Life,” said Milek.
The West Michigan Sports Commission is the primary organizer for the 2012 Transplant Games of America in Grand Rapids. Transplant recipients can compete in multiple events, including badminton, swimming, golf, basketball, bowling, and cycling. Additionally, there will be a tribute to living donors and donor families where individuals are encouraged to decorate a pinwheel to honor those who have given the gift of life.
For more information on the Transplant Games of America 2012, visit www.transplantgamesofamerica.org. Donate Life North Carolina (Donate Life NC) is a collaborative group of organizations that promote organ, eye and tissue donation including Carolina Donor Services, LifeShare Of The Carolinas and the NC Eye Bank. Working together, the member organizations are directly involved in supporting donor families and facilitating organ, eye and tissue transplants across the state. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, our work includes school education, Division of Motor Vehicles outreach and donor registry supervision. Our mission is to inspire all North Carolina residents to save and enhance lives by registering as organ, eye and tissue donors. People here in North Carolina can register by visiting their local DMV office or register online at DonateLifeNC.org. You can also follow Donate Life NC on Facebook at facebook.com/DonateLifeNC or on Twitter at @DonateLifeNC.