Miami Heat Player Mike Miller Balances Family, Basketball
Star player goes for NBA gold while caring for his ill newborn baby girl.
June 5, 2011— -- An NBA star who made a life-changing donation five years ago to assist sick children is now the one receiving help for his newborn baby's health problems.
"You fast-forward four, five years from then and I'm in the exact same situation, and people in the ICU are helping me deal with the same exact situations that I was helping people with," Miami Heat forward Mike Miller said.
Call it fate, or fortune, or karma, but back in 2007, Miller and his wife Jennifer just called it a gift -- $1 million to a children's hospital in his native South Dakota.
"We were blessed with two healthy children and just felt that that was something that was from our hearts that we wanted to do for the area where Michael was from," Jennifer Miller said.
The hospital named its pediatric intensive care unit after the Millers and life went on.
But then this past fall, Jennifer found out she was pregnant with the couple's third child, their first girl.
She was set to deliver in the middle of the Eastern Conference Finals, when the Heat were facing the Chicago Bulls.
"We came back from Chicago after Game 2. Flew in about 4:30 in the morning. Went straight to the hospital. They induced her," Mike Miller said. "We had Jaelyn and they brought her out and the umbilical cord was so tight around her neck that she wasn't getting blood."
Doctors told the Millers that their 6-pound baby was struggling to breathe.
Even worse, she had five holes in her heart, including one so large it might require cracking open her chest for surgery.
"I got to hold her for a few seconds, then they whisked her away. And that was pretty hard," Jennifer Miller said.
"It's just scary," Mike Miller said. "They wanted the baby's heart rate for a minute to be between 40 and 50, and she was north of 100."
Baby Jaelyn stabilized, but for the next 10 days remained in intensive care.
Miller, who'd been waiting his entire 11-year NBA career for a chance at a championship, began shuttling back and forth between the arena and his baby's bedside.
"I missed practices. The whole Chicago series is a blur, really. So it was show up and play as hard as you can, wish for the best, and go right back to the hospital," he said.
"I think it was pretty tough for him trying to balance both. And he really wanted to be there with us. So it was difficult," his wife said. "I kept telling him, and the nurses, too, it was so funny they kept telling him: 'Go, you need to go to practice, just go.'"
Miller was exhausted, playing with his hospital bracelet around his wrist, but he was still a key component in the Heat advancing to the NBA Finals, sharpshooting from all over the floor.
But shortly afterward, the best news came: Jaelyn was well enough to go home.
Friends called it karma. Once again, the Millers just called it a gift.
"It's great to be in our own house and just relax and not have all the tubes and wires connected to her. Just enjoy our time together as a family," Jennifer Miller said. "It's been tough, but it's made us stronger."
Jaelyn will be re-evaluated over the next three months to see if she will eventually require heart surgery.
"We have to monitor her 24 hours a day, make sure she's all right and constant doctor visits," Mike Miller said. "But just to have her home is a blessing."
Meanwhile, the NBA star is continuing to raise money to help care for other sick children. To find out more, go to mikemiller33.com