Centenarian’s advice: ‘Get it done; enjoy life like I am’
February 12, 2024
At age 102, Merle Miller still mows his 3-1/2 acre lawn each summer and loves working word puzzles and spending time with family members.
But today is a lot different than it was eight years ago when a heart attack threatened to end his life. The former steelworker’s heart woes were a long time coming.
“I worked a little bit of everything at Bethlehem Steel. I started out in the carpenter shop, ended up in the assembly line; burning and welding,” the keen-minded centenarian said. “When things started going downhill with my heart, I learned how to run the crane. Best job I ever had.”
But the heart problems persisted, and operations ensued. Still, it wasn’t until he was 94 that a heart attack landed Merle in the Conemaugh Health System hospital in Johnstown – where he became the system’s first transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) patient.
“The doctors there saved my life. Otherwise, I was licked. I just couldn't go anymore,” Merle said. “It’s sort of hard to explain, but they went up through my leg and into my heart with a new valve. The new valve squeezed the old valve back into my heart. And it's up there now working just beautiful.
“I couldn't ask for a better crew of cardiologists down there to take care of me. I don't think there’s any better service than what I got.”
Merle, a widower, still lives in his Carrolltown home with the loving teamwork and care of his five sons.
He’s always happy to offer some sage advice to others who spend too much time deciding whether to have a TAVR operation.
“Well, I met this lady a while back who said she was going to wait for a while before having it done. But I told her the good quality of life it gave me – and that she could have, too. I hope she got it done. It’s foolish to wait. Get it done and enjoy living. Like I am.”