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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

My Life: An Enduring Passion for Boxing, and a Desire To Raise Funds for and Awareness About Liver Disease

December 15, 2011

My Life: An Enduring Passion for Boxing, and a Desire To Raise Funds for and Awareness About Liver Disease

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Staffer and Professional Boxer Shannon Miller Heads Back to the Ring Dec. 16

Shannon MIller
Phillip Kamrass/Times Union

Boxing has been part of the Miller family legacy for more than 50 years. Shannon Miller, who now serves as a public safety officer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, had his first boxing match against a 10-year old, at the age of 8. Now, a year following his second retirement from boxing, Miller, 37, plans to return to the ring–not only for the love of the sport, but also to raise awareness and funds for liver disease.

Miller’s comeback is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 16, at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in downtown Albany, beginning at 6 p.m. He will fight in a six-round bout. The event will also serve as an opportunity to raise funds for his newly created organization, Knock Out Liver Disease (KOLD), which is dedicated to offering financial assistance to families and others who are dealing with liver disease.

“In February, I donated 60 percent of my liver to my Uncle Ray, who was suffering from liver cancer,” Miller said. “When it comes to family, you will do anything to help them. The process to see if I would be a good match was not easy. Besides being in excellent physical and psychological health, as a liver donor, you have to undergo extensive examinations and all types of testing.”   

In addition, radiological imaging of the liver is done to assess the anatomy, liver volume, and size, and at times a liver biopsy may be performed. Miller noted that while his uncle’s insurance covered most of the medical costs, he was responsible for additional expenses associated with travel to doctors’ offices in Boston.

“Overall, my out-of-pocket expenses related to the surgery were nearly $7,000,” Miller added. “I was pretty fortunate in that I could afford to cover the extra expenses, but in today’s economic climate, a lot of families may not be able to afford that. Going through the experience to help my uncle made me realize that I wanted to find some way to help other families who may be dealing with a similar situation.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources, the liver is one of the largest and most complex organs in the body. It weighs approximately 1,500 to 1,800 grams (or about three to four pounds) and is made up of a spongy mass of wedge-shaped lobes. The liver has numerous functions that are necessary for life. The liver helps process carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, and stores vitamins. It also processes nutrients absorbed from food in the intestines and turns them into materials that the body needs for life. For example, it makes the factors that the blood needs for clotting. It also secretes bile to help digest fats, and breaks down toxic substances in the blood such as drugs and alcohol.

A liver transplant procedure may involve the whole liver, a reduced liver, or a liver segment. Most transplants involve the whole organ but segmental transplants have been performed with increasing frequency in recent years, according to the organization. This would allow two liver recipients to be transplanted from one cadaveric donor or to allow for living donor liver donation. In some cases, a reduced liver transplant may result if the donor liver is too large for the recipient.

“During the process, we learned that liver transplants are among the most delicate because of the organ’s high concentration of blood vessels,” Miller said. “For the first days after the surgery, I was pretty weak. While some donors may take two to three months to recover, I was feeling great. Within 17 days I started running again, and I returned to work three weeks after my surgery. In making plans to return to the ring, one thing that I researched was whether any other professional boxer had returned to the sport after donating a liver. I couldn’t find anyone – so it looks like I am the first.”

Since the surgery, Miller has been training for the upcoming fight. His daily regimen includes a 5 a.m. run every morning before heading to the Rensselaer campus for work.

Miller is also a successful businessman. He manages NY Boxing Gym with his younger brother, Shawn, who will also participate in the Dec. 16 event. In addition, armed with a stockbroker’s license following a brief stint with Merrill-Lynch, Miller decided to open his own brokerage firm, which he managed for seven years before turning his interest to the security field. Miller received his associate’s degree in criminal justice from Hudson Valley Community College.

“Boxing will always be part of my life,” Miller said. “I blame my dad for getting me involved in boxing. My dad was a boxer in the Army, and I started hanging out with him at his boxing gym when I was 5 years old. Unfortunately, I didn’t win my very first fight.  Throughout my boxing career, my ring record is 16-5 with one no contest. I am going to keep boxing for as long as I can to raise funds for KOLD and greater awareness about liver donation, but I also hope to partner with other organizations as well to increase our efforts and reach. This is my way of helping someone and making a difference.”

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Contact: Jessica Otitigbe
Phone: (518) 276-6050