Community rallies to support family in its time of need

BJ Miller event
An outpouring of support for B.J. Miller from Provencal and surrounding communities has resulted in the upcoming “B.J. Miller Benefit,” set for Aug. 19-20. The Provencal Benefit Committee, Fire District 4 and the Brother’s Keepers Motorcycle Club 17th, Natchitoches Chapter (BKMC) will co-host fundraising events in Provencal to help Chief Miller and his family with medical expenses.

Bryan Miller, chief of FD4, is no stranger to helping those in need. Serving as a volunteer in FD4 for over 15 years and chief for the past 2 years, Bryan and his family are in need of help.

Bryan’s 17-year-old son, B.J., showed symptoms of what he first thought was a cold, or the flu, with a cough that wouldn’t stop in May. Doctors treated it as a cold at first, eventually diagnosing it as walking pneumonia. The treatments didn’t work. After nearly a month of no improvement, BJ’s doctors referred him to specialists in Shreveport who diagnosed the condition as congestive heart failure.

B.J. was rushed to the Texas Children’s Hospital in Dallas June 18. He was eventually transferred to Baylor University Medical Center, which has a more advanced heart center. He underwent open-heart surgery to implant a Left Ventricular Assist Device. The LVAD is a mechanical heart pump that assists damaged and weakened muscles by pumping blood, thus allowing the heart to heal.

B.J., known to family and friends as “Beej,” faces up to a year of LVAD use, which runs on an external battery pack and is plugged in at night to recharge. After 32 days in hospitals, B.J was moved the Ronald McDonald House, where he will spend a couple months undergoing rehabilitation and therapy until he is strong enough to come home. If the LVAD doesn’t work, a heart transplant is a real possibility.

Staying with him during this ordeal, the Miller family is saddled with living expenses and medical co-pays and deductibles. Chief Miller used up his vacation leave and much of his unpaid leave, eventually returning to work.

Perhaps it’s a holdover from the frontier days, when small towns and communities banded together to help each other in tough times, but that neighbor-helping-neighbor way of thinking is alive in Provencal. This philosophy is no more evident than in the NPFD4, which serves Provencal, Flora, Vowells Mill, Bellwood, Kisatchie and the Central Loop area.

The event begins Friday night with “Beej’s Bingo” and silent auctions at the Provencal Jr. High Auditorium. On Saturday there will be chicken and sausage lunch plate for sale, a Cornhole Tournament, a Heart Walk and a Wild Game Cookoff. T-shirts can be ordered.

The BKMC and FD4 will host a Poker Run starting at the Provencal Fire Station Saturday, and a Motorcycle Officer Skill Course for riders to test skills. The BKMC is comprised of firefighters, paid and volunteer, active and retired, who enjoy riding motorcycles. Some of the volunteer firefighters of FD4 are members of the Natchitoches BKMC Chapter.

For more information contact Provencal Benefit Committee members Lori Savell at (318) 332-2432, or Melissa O’Bannon at (318) 332-8866.