Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we are proud to announce our February Man of the Month…Dan Miller. There is no greater gift of love than saving a life. Happy Valentine’s Day!

dan feb man of month

On the topic of organ donation, Dan Miller had a consistent message: “Do the research.”

For Dan, a healthy, 20-year-old junior at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., this meant seeking out the evidence needed to justify the life-changing decision of whether to donate a kidney to someone he’d never met.

Dan talked to his sister, Lauren Miller, who had successfully undergone the same procedure in December 2014 and had already overcome the judgement of skeptics, challenging her decision.

Dan read the statistics about how each year nearly 5,000 people die after being left on an 100,000-plus long waiting list for a kidney transplant. He visited specialists to determine if he had the physical, emotional and mental capacity to withstand the risks of living with one kidney.

For Dan, our February Disruptive Women Man of the Month, the research he did overwhelmingly pointed in one direction: saving another person’s life. And in December, days before Christmas, he did just that.

“It was really just the shock of finding out the really serious need for this kind of stuff that motivated me to do it,” Dan said. “You really just have to make people aware that there is information out there, the research has been done, there’s literature that can be read, and you can learn a lot about it and realize how easy and realistic of a thing it is.”

Dan makes it sound easy, but there is a reason a majority of organs are donated by people who are deceased and were between the ages of 18-64, as opposed to bright-eyed, able-bodied college students. For many people, the act is counter intuitive.

But Dan, having dug through all of the evidence, was also encouraged by the knowledge that his kidney, because of its relative youth, could function in the body of a recipient for a much longer period compared to the kidney of an older donor.

Following surgery, Dan, who had completed a marathon in Richmond just one month before, was back on his feet within days, doing errands for his family on Christmas Eve. He returned to school within three weeks, and on February 1, he passed the six-week threshold for when he is permitted to ramp up physical activity. Now, he and Lauren want to tackle a half marathon.

They also share aspirations to keep the number of U.S. organ donations trending in a positive direction. According to USA Today, organ donations exceeded 30,000 in 2015, five percent more than in 2014. But there is much work to be done: the National Kidney Foundation reports that every day 13 people die waiting for a kidney transplant, and someone is added to the national kidney transplant list every 14 minutes.

Dan, who wants to pursue a career as a physician’s assistant or nurse, knows the statistics intimately.

“Once you start learning about [organ donation] and once you start getting involved and seeing the benefits that come from it, it’s a really exciting thing to see more people become more open-minded and actually take the initiative and become donors themselves, because it’s so easy to make a huge difference for somebody,” Dan said.

Like Dan and Lauren’s story, there are many examples of live-saving organ donations that are inspirational and deserving of recognition. For example, CNN recently profiled how the heart of a deceased 7-month old boy, Lukas, whom we would like to make an honorary Disruptive Women Little Man of the Month, was used to save a young girl with a congenital heart defect.

These stories and more build the evidence of the power of organ donation and transplantation.

Disruptive Women in Health Care is proud to call Dan Miller our February Man of the Month.  In addition to donating his kidney, Dan has also helped rebuild houses in New Orleans, volunteers at the Harrisonburg Rescue Squad as an EMT in training and is planning a service trip to Los Angeles next month to focus on HIV/AIDS-related work with two local agencies.

If you would like more information about becoming a donor or receiving an organ transplant, please visit http://organdonor.gov/index.html.

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