Jason C. Miller is a kidney transplant recipient who wants to dedicate the rest of his life to an unknown hero who gave him the ultimate gift. A proud native of Cleveland, Ohio, Jason refers to himself as a “renal survivor” with 62 months of hemodialysis, two fistulas, one transplant and an infinite number of needle pricks under his belt. Jason is ready to seize this second chance at life. “I seek to exceed the expectations of my unknown hero and the family, friends surviving his untimely end. My second chance at life will celebrate his gift to the magnitude of the gift.”
No stranger to enormous endeavors, Jason became a champion horse rider by age two. He earned the honor of Cub Scout Arrow of Light by elementary school and became a Patrol Leader at the National Jamboree by middle school. Jason went on to raise in-excess of $25,000 dollars in high school to first honor his late mother with completing his Eagle Scout project and re-building an outdoor chapel from his mother’s childhood. Next, he represented the United States of America at World Jamboree in Soul Korea, sparking his interest in travel and seeing the world.
During his senior year of high school, Jason established a government contracting company in his hometown municipality and secured a $40,000 street services contract. He dropped out of college after three semesters to pursue hospitality and ultimately became a proprietor of a restaurant in Dayton, Ohio. The next two decades Jason continued several notable achievements before walking away from a hugely successful career, returning to complete his higher education. Seeking a more fulfilling life, Jason returned to college at the age of 35 to pursue a career path that would allow significantly more quality time in his life for things he loved like travel.
Diagnosis & Dialysis
That’s when life came to a screeching halt with a diagnosis of onset end-stage renal failure. It was at this time, with no medical insurance, that he discovered his kidneys had stopped processing and accumulated 16 kilos of fluid and toxins sitting on his chest. The diagnosis resulted in an unexpected month-long visit to the local hospital where he began hemodialysis.
Jason had to drop out of college temporarily due to his new diagnosis but persisted the very next semester with fifteen credit hours of course work and fifteen hours of chair time each week. His dialysis center accommodated his determination to maintain employment and a healthy lifestyle with a 5 p.m. chair time on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays and provided in-chair exercise equipment and a laptop table for studying, allowing Jason to attend school by day and dialysis by night.
Even with a full life of accomplishments, Jason grew depressed as dialysis took over his life. He had very little time to hang out with friends or pursue his purpose or passions. Between classes, medical appointments and dialysis, his daily routine became discouraging and caused him to wonder if it was worth the fight. Depression and suicidal thoughts became the norm, and after an attempt on his own life, Jason received help and entered therapy. His second therapist proved to be a perfect match and the needed support his family and friends couldn’t or wouldn’t provide.
Both clinical depression and gross obesity prevented Jason from getting on the transplant waitlist for two years. With his depression now under control, Jason made steps to improve his health and lose weight. He ate healthier, enjoyed outdoor workouts and underwent weight loss surgery reducing his stomach two-thirds and losing 185 pounds!
Jason graduated from The University of Akron with a BA in Public Relations with Honors and started a rewarding career in the non-profit sector. To get more control of his life and after 62 months of hemodialysis, Jason pursued, and received approval for Peritoneal Dialysis at home instead of In-Center Hemodialysis. It was only two weeks into his Peritoneal Dialysis experience when he got the unforgettable series of two calls first instructing to standby and then to rush to The University Hospital in the prestigious Cleveland University Hospital Circle.
His third and final call from the transplant coordinator was just six hours prior when Jason began surgery. Just 12 hours later, waking to his older brother by his side, was the start of his recovery and just another 18 hours was his first steps on a walker in that direction to see the world.
After learning of a one-year travel ban after a transplant, Jason dreamed of the places he could go with his new kidney and how to honor this gift of life and a lifetime. With a vague understanding of the World Heritage List, he began a year-long research endeavor into the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Once cleared for international travel, his first journey was across the pond for a Belgian waffle, and he felt the breeze from the windmills of Holland followed by a nightly hunt for the elusive northern lights of Iceland. Jason experienced two UNESCO World Heritage Sites during his first of 18 trips in 2018.
Jason coupled his passion for seizing his second chance with his determination for seeing the world by creating a YouTube Channel to honor his unknown hero’s life and gift. The debut episode titled “The Ultimate Thank You” (https:// youtu.be/juJxGON9Um4) was dedicated to his donor and his donor’s family. Jason hopes that the many friends and family of his hero will find pleasure in seeing their loved one live on through his adventures and travels to each UNESCO site. (A UNESCO World Heritage site is a legally protected site or area with historical significance or prominence. In fact, 1,092 sites have been inscribed and protected by the 167 nations that ratified and committed to preserving our natural and cultural sites for all of humanity.)
Jason hopes you will join him on his quest to visit each UNESCO site, where he hopes to inspire and motivate all to “Seize the Day.” These three words are how he lives each day of his second chance at life and hopes to encourage the newly diagnosed, the veterans and the lifers of dialysis to remember time is the great equalizer and time is the most precious asset, so get out there and SEIZE THE DAY!
This article was originally published in aakpRENALIFE, May 2019.