Rickey Miller is an active 60-year-old man. He mows his lawn, enjoys golf and plays basketball three days a week.
So he was somewhat surprised with the results of medical tests after he visited his doctor one day when he wasn't feeling well.
“They went in and found in one of my arteries I had an 85 percent blockage," Miller says. "It’s serious. Except a guy who works for me had four stents put in the week before.
"I play a lot of basketball still — believe it or not — and some days I could play four games. But the next time I could only go for a few minutes. But that had a lot more to do with (atrial fibrillation) than with that artery.”
But when an artery has significant blockage, it does contribute to fatigue.
“I convinced myself to go in because something wasn’t right,” he says. “I was surprised because (the blockage) was close to 100 percent.”
He underwent stent installation surgery in March at Indiana Regional Medical Center.
“[Dr. Rajeev Pillai] was very good,” Miller says. “He was respectful and really cool. He told me what to expect before and after. They put me to sleep, and when I woke up I had no side effects in any way shape or form. He did a really good job. He took good care of me. That’s what it’s all about, right?”
Pillai is a new addition to the IRMC staff and heads the state-of-the-art Cardiac Catheterization Lab. The interventional cardiologist has performed high-volume interventional procedures since 2008.
In his career, Pillai has performed more than 4,000 cardiac catheterizations and more than 1,000 stent procedures — averaging more than 200 per year. That’s about twice the national rate.
Back on the court
Miller’s company, See World Satellites, required more physical work “back in the day when it was a one-man show,” Miller says. His business has grown to include 50 trucks, so he’s no longer out in the field installing satellite dishes.
“I was doing more physical work three or four years ago,” he says. “But the most physical work I do now is mow my grass, play golf and play some basketball.”
Miller experienced zero ill effects after the surgery. He was in the hospital for two days and was back to work soon after his release.
He notes that both his parents had some history of cardiovascular problems.
“My mom and dad both had some heart irregularities,” he says. “My mother had a heart valve put in, and my dad died of a stroke and he had some heart issues. It has a lot to do with diet and exercise, but I’ve been active all my life.”
The Homer City resident is married, has a 26-year-old daughter and raised two nephews after their mother died when they were 10 and 14 years of age.
The only thing that has changed for Miller is that he now takes medicine to help prevent blood cells from sticking to the stent. Surgery and recovery have not slowed him down. And, yes, he is once again out on the court.
“When I play ball, I’m generally the oldest guy out there,” he laughs.
And thanks to his stent, he’s again the oldest guy running up and down the court during pick-up games at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
“I’ve been playing there for 50 years,” he says. “We play on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, plus I coach basketball at Homer Center High School. We went 27-0 — a school record — last season and we went far in the playoffs. We’ll be really good this year.”
Most importantly, Rickey Miller will be there to help lead the team to success.