SHELBYVILLE, IL -- Meliah Miller was a young woman who loved life, her family, people, camping outdoors, the edge of the seat adventure and her job. She had it all. She was beautiful, bright and a blessing to those who were lucky enough to know her.
She also silently struggled with cystic fibrosis. She was diagnosed as an infant and fought the disease all of her life with pills, breathing treatments and a can-do attitude.
According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, more than 10 million Americans are symptomless carriers of the defective gene that causes cystic fibrosis (CF). CF is an inherited disease that affects the lungs and digestive systems in which a defective gene and its protein cause the body to produce an unusually thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs causing life-threatening lung infections. This mucus obstructs the pancreas, stopping natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food.
Meliah was a former colleague of Shelby Memorial Hospital (SMH), now HSHS Good Shepherd Hospital. She started with a student internship with Lakeland College and then became employed in the health information management department (HIM) of SMH.
Lorrie Hayden, HIM manager, said, “Meliah loved to laugh. She would come in and say, ‘Tell me a ‘Kristin story.’ Kristin is my daughter, and she wasn’t quite 10 when I worked with Meliah. I would tell her the story of the day, and she would laugh.
“She was so full of life with a positive energy that was contagious. The whole department loved her. She was such a blessing that it was very hard to lose her because it was as if we lost a part of ourselves. Her picture still sits in our department as a way to keep her with us.”
John Bennett, past CEO of SMH, also worked with Meliah at the hospital. He cared about her and was supportive of her with her illness.
He tells this story: “She was a special lady, and everybody enjoyed her. Before her untimely death, she became so ill that she could not work here except for one day a week. That day was Thursday. I would make it a point to walk down through her department on Thursday as a show of support. I would encourage her. Her co-workers and I had a pact that lasted long after her demise.
Bennett said, “On Thursday, no matter what problems I was dealing with in running the rest of the hospital, I would take a break and walk down through her department. I would look at her coworkers and say ‘Well, it’s Thursday.’ They knew that meant it is time to take a moment and remember Meliah. I did that every week until I retired.”
“She wanted to be a mother,” Meliah’s husband Cliff Miller said. “She became pregnant in 1999, but the pregnancy took such a toll on her health. We were faced with a terrible decision -- the hardest decision in the world.
“She wanted nothing more than to give life to her baby but the pregnancy was too much for her fragile state. We had to induce labor very early, and our baby boy was born prematurely. He was underdeveloped, and he only lived a few hours.”
Miller said, “Because of the strain of pregnancy, she was forced to wear an oxygen cannula for the rest of her life. She lost her battle with CF the following year. She was 24 years old. Her parents were told she wouldn’t live beyond the age of 16, but she did. She taught everyone around her how to live too.”
Meliah Miller is just one person in Shelby County who has battled with CF. Meliah’s last words, according to her mother, were, “Don’t let people forget me.”
It is with this intention that First Federal Savings and Loan and HSHS Good Shepherd Hospital are sponsoring an event on September 29, called Shelby County Cystic Fibrosis Event. The event will be a walk to provide hope to those still battling CF, to raise awareness of the disease and to raise funds for its cure. No one wants to see another light like Meliah’s extinguished before its time because of CF.
The first mile of the walk is named Meliah’s Mile in honor of Meliah Miller. Join us on September 29 at the General Dacey Trail at the north edge of Forest Park in Shelbyville for fun, music, food, community, education and to do battle with the life-threatening disease, CF.
Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. and the walk will commence at 9:30 a.m. The walk is only one activity at the Shelby County Cystic Fibrosis Event. There will be more information to come on the other activity at the Shelby County Cystic Fibrosis Event which is a bike-a-thon and trike-a-thon. These activities are named Abbie’s Ride.
To learn how you can volunteer at the event, raise money for this cause, walk as an individual or assemble a team of your own, please visit shelbycf.org for more information.
About HSHS Good Shepherd Hospital
Since its inception in 1916, HSHS Good Shepherd Hospital in Shelbyville (GSS) has been dedicated to excellence in healthcare for those living and visiting their communities. GSS has accomplished this by providing comprehensive health services and meeting the needs of patients served through their compassionate care, business integrity and community responsibility. GSS provides a 24/7 emergency department that is fully staffed by physicians and highly-trained nurses, and also features inpatient and outpatient services, including a 24-hour laboratory and an imaging department that meets today’s highest standards for diagnostic imaging technology. GSS has an advanced surgery department and an acute inpatient care unit. Dedicated to being a hometown hospital, GSS’ home health and rehabilitation departments are committed to excellence with a team of professional nurses and therapists providing a variety of medical services and rehabilitative therapies, all designed to help patients heal in their own environment. The group of visiting specialists in the outpatient clinic works closely with GSS to help keep the healthcare services local even if a specialized procedure or exam is required. GSS strives to be the first choice for the community’s healthcare needs. For more information about HSHS Good Shepherd Hospital, visit www.hshsgoodshepherd.org.
About Hospital Sisters Health System
Hospital Sisters Health System’s (HSHS) mission is to reveal and embody Christ’s healing love for all people through our high quality Franciscan health care ministry. HSHS provides state-of-the-art health care to our patients and is dedicated to serving all people, especially the most vulnerable, at each of our 15 local systems and physician practices in Illinois (Breese, Decatur, Effingham, Greenville, Highland, Litchfield, O’Fallon, Shelbyville and Springfield) and Wisconsin (Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Oconto Falls, Sheboygan and two in Green Bay). HSHS is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries, and Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the founding institute. For more information about HSHS, visit www.hshs.org. For more information about Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, visit www.hospitalsisters.org.