by Nate Widom
Maybe you’ve seen long-time HAC member James “Jim” Miles working on stationary bikes and weight machines on the fitness floor. If you converse with him, you’ll realize he’s had a successful sales career, partakes in an active lifestyle, and loves spending time with his large, supportive family. However, he has a challenge in his life. After a long decline in his nephrological health following his gallbladder removal operation in 2011, he now needs a kidney.
Jim was born in Morrisville, Pennsylvania and worked at U.S. Steel after graduating from Pennsbury High School. After realizing his job at the company wasn’t a fit, he enrolled at Delaware State University to graduate with a history and political science degree. He was an athlete throughout high school and college and even played on the Delaware State University football team. After graduation, Jim took a management trainee position back at U.S. Steel and an eventual office product sales position at IBM. Once he took another position as a regional sales manager at Avon Products, he moved to the Hockessin area.
While returning from a New York City business trip back to Delaware, Jim ran into a prominent figure. Here, his career took another positive turn. “I’m on the train coming back, and I sat next to this guy. His name was Henry Rothschild,” he recalls. “We started talking, and he says, ‘Jim, we need a guy like you.’”
Henry Rothschild is part of the Rothschild family, a large and wealthy notable family in the banking and finance world. At the time, Henry owned the Caddy Corporation, a New Jersey company producing equipment for hospitals and nursing homes. Henry offered Jim an interview, and Jim graciously accepted the company’s offer to be the national sales manager. “What a brain this guy has,” Jim praises Henry. At Caddy, Jim boosted sales into the millions and created a successful company catalog. Jim remained at Caddy as a notable sales representative for seven years.
After Caddy, Jim established A4 Incorporated as a manufacturer’s representative in the food service industry. But that wasn’t the only business he established. During the casino hotel boom in Atlantic City, demand was high for new business. In addition to being a food service dealer, Jim established a thriving Atlantic City business selling industrial food equipment. “I had this company out in Venice, Italy called Modular,” Jim recalls. “Some companies make just ovens, some make hoods, some make Bain-Maries. They made everything. I sold the ranges, the ovens, the griddles, the exhaust hoods–they were big ticket items.”
Notable clients for his business include Aramark, Hilton, Marriot, and the U.S. Government. And he credits his own son for much of the success of his business. “If it hadn’t been for my son, it would’ve been my demise because then I wasn’t calling all these people who could’ve used my equipment,” he explains. Additionally, Jim met a few notable figures along the way, including former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Dick Cheney, CEO of Halliburton at the time. Trump needed Jim’s products for his casino hotels, and Halliburton needed equipment to feed American soldiers their food. Jim eventually made the decision to sell his company in November 2019.
In his spare time, Jim enjoys the outdoors, being active, and spending time with his family. However, once he learned he needed a new kidney, all those activities declined.
“That was probably one of the worst days of my life,” says Jim. His doctor expressed that his kidneys are weakened, but if he takes dialysis, he can live a relatively normal life, minus a few activities he loves. “I gotta go to dialysis three days a week, and that’s a drag,” he mentions. “They put these needles in you, and you’re sitting there reading a book or watching tv. It’s no fun.”
Still, Jim was committed so his life could return to some sense of normalcy. “You can’t be a coward or a wimp and get old,” he remarks. “You won’t last long.”
Even though Jim cannot do as many activities as he used to, he makes the best of it. “I haven’t skied this year. My legs are in good shape, but [not] my wind,” he mentions. “I used to be very active, but I’m not as active anymore. Plus, I’m getting older, so that slows you down, too.”
According to Jim, his weakened kidneys drastically lower his energy levels. “I can take short walks—like where I live, I walk around the cold-a-sac and down the end of the street and back,” he describes. “That’s about it. I was in here yesterday, working my butt off. [Then] I got home, had a glass of orange juice, and I almost passed out. It just takes all your energy.”
Over the summers, he and his family travel to their vacation home in the Thousand Islands area of upstate New York. There, they enjoy many outdoor activities including the tradition of swimming across the St. Lawrence River to an island across. Recently, Jim tried to take the swim but wasn’t successful. “I got halfway out there, and I had to turn over on my back. I said, ‘holy smokes, Jim, you better cool it, or you’ll drown out here.’”
Jim must now plan his activities to accommodate for more precautions and breaks, including when playing basketball with his sons. “[There are] a lot of things you think you can do, or you used to do without thinking,” Jim remarks. “Now you gotta think them out.”
Even though his situation isn’t ideal, Jim remains hopeful and committed to finding the perfect match for his kidney. He regularly passes out cards with his information to those he meets. Thankfully, modern medical breakthroughs allow the donation process to be much more efficient and friendlier. Now, donations can be organized over long distances.
“You [used to] lay on a gurney along somebody, and they take your kidney and put it in. Now you don’t have to do that. I can find somebody in Alaska [for example],” Jim states. “They take their kidney, send it to the kidney bank, take out a kidney that matches me, and send it to the University of Pennsylvania [Hospital] where I’m registered to have this operation.”
The National Kidney Foundation states that kidney matches are determined through blood type, tissue type, and serum cross-matching tests.
In October 2022, the American Kidney Fund released a press release expressing appreciation for Delaware Governor John Carney for signing SB 301. The Fund reports that Delaware taxpayers can claim a tax credit of up to $10,000 for various expenses related to their kidney donation. These include medical expenses, travel, and any wages the taxpayer or their dependent lost during the process.
To Jim, working out and being active made a positive difference in his life, and he is a satisfied long-time HAC and Pike Creek Fitness member. “I’ll tell you, HAC has been a savior for me,” he mentions. “I see guys my age–I’m 81. They’re on canes, they can’t walk, and I contribute a lot of that to my exercise routine.”
Nevertheless, Jim needs help. “I feel about the same as I always did, except when I try and do something, and that’s when this kidney stuff hits you. It takes all your energy out of you,” Jim concludes. “And I want to get that back, and the only way to get that back is with a kidney.”
To help or learn more about Jim, please visit https://www.nkr.org/uwp434.