My Husband's Journey
I'm taking a moment to share the personal news of my husband's passing. Malcolm Wayne 'Nick' Miller made his transition to heaven on Saturday, October 13, 2012. His illness and the care he required is one reason I've been away from my blog for so long. I'd like to take a moment to explain what happened with Nick and share about this wonderful sweet man.
In November 2005, we were living in Nashville, TN. We had been married nearly 20 years and were raising our five kids, Kimberly, Jeff, Jordan, Jared and Justin. One day out of the blue, Nick started experiencing episodes of vertigo (dizzy spells). Within a few weeks, the vertigo progressed to a balance disorder where he couldn't stand up straight without assistance. By the summer of 2006, he'd seen 8 specialists, been in and out of the hospital/rehab and he ended up permanently in a wheelchair. We were referred to a specialist in Atlanta who finally diagnosed him with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) in early 2009. MSA is a rare neurological disorder that's similar to ALS and Parkinson’s Disease.
After 3 months of intensive physical therapy and drug combinations, we were told that there was nothing more they could do. Parts of his brain were continuing to deteriorate at a much faster pace than any of the specialists had ever seen. When we received this report, we remained hopeful that God would yet heal and restore him as we took Nick home and cared for him until his passing Saturday afternoon, October 13th, 2 days before his 49th birthday. It was a slow gradual decline, yet God has been so faithful to us in so many, many ways. It would take a book, (which I've already started writing) to share all the miracles we experienced, large and small, as the Lord led us through this journey and stayed by us every step of the way.
Back in 2009 when we had that final meeting with the specialists, they asked if we'd be willing to donate his body for an in depth study including genetic testing and DNA mapping to try and learn more about his unusual disease progression. Nick quickly agreed and made me promise that I would make sure that happened. I've done so according to his wishes. We're in the process of planning a celebration of his life, but as he would have wanted, it will be more of a small informal gathering of family and friends rather than a full-blown event. (He'd be embarrassed by something like that. He truly hated being the center of attention!)
At this point, the cause of MSA is unknown so we know very little about how and why this disease occurred in an otherwise healthy man. We're hoping through donating his body that they can give us more information and help doctors recognize these symptoms in the early stages. In many cases by the time a patient finds out that they have MSA, there's little that can be done to help.
One positive outcome is that a neurologist at Vanderbilt who treated him in the beginning of his illness has taken a leadership role in treating people in Tennessee with MSA and he's currently conducting drug trials. He was personally impacted by Nick's case so we're thankful that other people with this disorder are now being given answers and perhaps some hope in the early stages of the disease. In those early years in Nashville, we spent a lot of time seeing doctors who had no idea what they were dealing with and we felt frustrated that we kept going back when they clearly had no answers while the specialist in Atlanta was able to diagnose Nick in 6 days. Now when people go to the neurology department at Vanderbilt with similar symptoms, they're met with a very different response and that makes me feel like some good has come out of all this.
Malcolm Wayne "Nick" Miller may not be a popular person that a lot of people know, but he's a gentle giant in our eyes who loved the Lord and covered his family faithfully! He always called "his family" his greatest accomplishment. His loving care for me as a woman was both honorable and deeply sincere. He took his role as father to heart and he raised his daughter and four sons to be people of great character and strength. He was truly the kindest man I have ever known. He never passed a person by whose car was stalled in the streets without stopping to help push them out of harm's way.
Nick believed the best in people and he always said that everyone deserves a second chance. He was a quiet man by nature who was always too shy to kiss with his eyes open, even after we'd been married for years and years. He loved being outdoors and spent his career as a landscape gardener because he loved creating beautiful flowerbeds and the smell of freshly cut grass. While he faithfully provided for his family, he never "worked" a day in his life. He was content to come home at the end of the day, sweaty, grimy and sometimes musty as a goat, to the little family he loved and treasured. That's what made him happy and that's why we loved being with him...even until the very end.
Thank you for letting me share a little of our story.