For any football fans here, Matt Millen needs no introduction.
For the rest of us who are unfamiliar, Matt is a four-time Super Bowl-winning linebacker who has played for the Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers, and Washington Redskins – and later managed a team and became a renown football commentator.
After decades of facing tough games on the field – he has a new opponent in the battle for his life: amyloidosis.
Amyloidosis occurs when abnormal proteins called amyloids build up and form deposits. The deposits can collect in organs such as the kidney and heart. This can cause the organs to become stiff and unable to work the way they should.
Symptoms can vary, depending upon which organs are affected. Treatment depends on the type of amyloidosis you have. The goal is to help with symptoms and limit the production of proteins. If another disease is the cause, it needs to be treated.
Matt has been happy to provide a voice for amyloidosis and for the rare disease community – especially with the recent news that he requires a heart transplant.
Quoting Matt in a really great Sports Illustrated profile–
“We’re in the fourth quarter of a big football game,” Matt said. “We’re down 13. Playing defense. It’s getting late.”
According to the piece, the long journey to diagnosis started in 2011, when his routine hike with his wife on their property proved uncharacteristically difficult – especially for a former professional athlete!
Soon, Matt couldn’t couldn’t overlook it anymore.
I’d start walking, and I was like, What is going on? I’d start getting this pressure like right at the base of my chest. Then I couldn’t make it up to the top. Then I couldn’t even get halfway up. That lasts about a year, year and a half, and I figure I better go see a doctor.”
And his story from there plays like so many in his position.
Multiple heart tests, tests for severe acid reflux and Lyme disease. Surgical removal of a non-malignant tumor from his chest. Kidney and liver tests. Matt was told he was healthy– even though he felt terrible.
He was finally referred to the Mayo Clinic by doctor for the Philadelphia Eagles, where new testing proved that the protein amyloid was being produced in Millen’s bone marrow and was being deposited in the area around his heart, making the heart less elastic and unable to perform the necessary pumping for healthy heart function.
It really is an incredible story that shows us no matter who we are or where we come from, we are all in this together, fighting for our health or for the health of a loved one.