Nyheim Hines drove to the hospital parking lot, where his mother Nannette Miller was earlier this winter. The Colts season ended – sooner than anyone expected – and Hines’ focus shifted to caring for his mother.
Hines was there because Miller, who had struggled with muscular dystrophy for more than a decade, suffered a stroke on the way back to her home in Raleigh after spending Christmas with her son in Arizona last December.
She was in the middle of what a six-week hospital stay would mean, and her recovery was slower than usual due to her muscular dystrophy.
“I remember that for about a week not everything went as it should, I was still upset about the season, I remember I went to the hospital and I was in the car for a while, crying to get together,” Hines said. “It’s hard to see your mom in a vegetative state.”
Hines and his twin sister, Nyah, have done a great deal to care for their 58-year-old mother since she was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy when they were in high school. She’s doing better after the stroke – Hines was afraid she would never see her mother walking again, but she walks a few hundred feet every day and regains her strength.
But it was hard to see his mother getting worse from muscular dystrophy – a rare genetic disease that includes more than 40 different specific diseases, including ALS, that cause progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass. She broke both hips and her speech and strength had waned over the years. Nyheim and Nyah had to make difficult decisions and have the difficult conversations most people would expect from their parents and their parents at the age of 40 or 50, not around the age of 20.
And for Hines, balancing a mental tax on watching his mother’s illness with the demands of a football player is an incredibly difficult challenge.
“Especially in high season, sometimes I can’t escape stress,” Hines said. “Here, even if it’s going well – it’s not that we’re stressed, but I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to be the best I can be. I know I have a role to play here, and it’s up to me what I do.” it’s 100 percent and I’m proud of it every day.
“And then I’ll have a bad day here for a few days, then I’ll go home and pick up the phone and my mom’s worried or my mom’s fallen – like, my mom’s been in the hospital for over 100 days since 2020. It was hard. It was really hard – every day is not good here and even those good days can ruin it because my mom could fall or something happened or she is not happy and fighting.
“Honestly, I don’t know how I handled it, but I had a lot of support.”
Hines and his twin sister find the strength to overcome difficult times – to the point that one day Nyah cried for their mother and called Nyheim, who was crying before the nurse called him. Talking to Nyah – a “rock” in helping their mom, he said, helps because they don’t have to explain or recalculate some of the difficult things they’re going through.
But the support of Hines’ professional family with the Colts was also important for his mental health. General Manager Chris Ballard and head coach Frank Reich regularly check Hinesa on how his mother is doing, and he also visits the Elizabeth White team clinic every few weeks.
And while Hines isn’t always one of those who open up about what’s going on with his mom, he plays for a team that clearly supports his mental health journey, starting with the Irsay Kicking Family Stigma’s family initiative.
“I had a lot of support from the Colts and my family,” Hines said. “So it’s not just me – and I’ve had a lot of stress, because handling things like that is time consuming, it takes some money, and it’s emotionally difficult for you. I’m glad I had a lot of support.” . “
Hines’ mother is also heavily taxed. She’s not even 60; at that age, there are still many things he wants to do and see – and do independently. But there was one morning when she fell at 3 o’clock in the morning and broke her hip; her sister was not to appear until 10 a.m., so she had to wait alone for hours before help arrived.
The Hines called that his mother had broken her hip that day on her way to the Colts.
“My mom is 58. She’s still young,” Hines said. “But at 25, my sister and I are like hey, you need an assisted life, you need someone here with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And that’s hard, too, because my mom’s young. It’s hard for her. And even harder for us to call her like hey, we’re not both here, if you fall, it’s hard.
“… At a young age, we have to tell Mom certain things she can and can’t do like we’re parents, right? And we really aren’t. So it was really stressful, and it’s hard.” “
But Hines persevered in his great support and remarkable outlook on life. He realizes, well, I’m a rare player – a 5-foot-9 running back that has established itself as an explosive, versatile weapon that can run between tools and catch passes from the slot – so I could lead a precious life as well.
“I think the uniqueness of it has helped me a little because it’s rare, and I often wonder, God, why is this happening to me? It’s so rare,” Hines said. “I don’t have help, I really don’t know so many people with it. And then I sit down and look at my life, it’s like my athletic career.
“… So I try to use it in my personal life and I try to set those parameters so that I can’t get to ask God why, and I don’t complain about the cards that have been dealt to me, but I have played cards that I got.”
Thanks to a successful career in the NFL and a mother with muscular dystrophy, Hines has become a stronger person. He knows he’s never alone, even though it can sometimes look like that – he has his sister, his family, his agent and the Colts who support him.
And he and Nyah are inspired by their mom’s fight. Hines pushes for exercise or days when he is tired, thinking about the difficulties his mother is facing, such as things as simple as getting out of bed and brushing his teeth. There is no resignation at Nannette Miller – and there is no resignation at Nyheim Hines.
“It was a battle, but shoot,” Hines said, “I probably wouldn’t be here without it.”