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Man earns second chance at life, receives double lung transplant at 73 years old

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Hal Miller has always been active. A marine and sports enthusiast, Hal was still competing even in his 70s.

“I was 72 and still playing softball, senior softball. And I was pretty physical, playing golf and doing all that,” said Miller.

That’s why when his breathing seemingly got harder overnight, he was concerned. “I thought I had some bronchitis, and it wasn’t getting any better. So, I went to the VA doctor,” said Miller.

He was then diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, which causes a thickening or scarring of the lung tissue and can affect overall lung function.

“I was a little surprised because not a year and a half earlier, my brother passed away from this,” said Miller.

Having just seen his brother go through it, he knew his back was against the wall. Hal made an appointment with the VA to discuss a lung transplant.

“It come back declined, they didn’t accept it. The reasoning was they felt I was too old,” said Miller.

Despite getting the news from the VA, the Millers were not done. “There’s one other option, I could gather up everything again and send it to IU Methodist,” said Miller

Hal met with Dr. Chad Denlinger at IU Methodist. With his health declining, Hal was met again with another speed bump.

“He had been in rehab back closer to home, walking one mile per hour on the treadmill. I told him we can’t safely transplant you unless you can get your walk up to something more reasonable like two miles an hour, and he said I can do this. Honestly, I doubted him,” said Dr. Denlinger.

Again, Hal didn’t give up.

“He says if you can go out there and walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes at two miles an hour, I’ll reconsider. And so I did, as he walked the track around me,” said Miller.

Hal took that motivation and put himself in a position to receive a double lung transplant.

“August 4th, I was listed, then August 15th I got the call,” said Miller.

The transplant was a success, Hal had been given another chance. “And that was it, I woke up and had two new lungs,” said Miller.

Hal took that second chance a step further after his family presented him with the challenge of running a 5k.

“You have a tendency, no matter who you are, to push yourself a little bit, when you’re under the gun. Well, I’m not quitting,” said Miller.

Dr. Denlinger says Hal’s perseverance is what makes his job worth it.

“What I really enjoy is seeing him on the backside – in normal clothes, golfing on Easter Sunday, running 5k’s, that’s really what I find most exciting,” Dr. Denlinger said.

And as for Hal, he’s not done.

“I come that close, that close, where you can’t even hardly see. That’s how close I come to not having a second chance. And, bless his heart, Dr. Denlinger give me chance, and it’s awesome,” said Miller.