Nyheim Hines pulled into the parking lot of the hospital where his mom, Nannette Miller, was earlier this winter. The Colts’ season was over – earlier than anyone expected – and Hines’ focus had shifted to caring for his mom.
Hines was there because Miller, who has battled muscular dystrophy for over a decade, suffered a stroke on her way back to her home in Raleigh after spending Christmas with her son in Arizona last December.
She was in the middle of what would be a six-week hospital stay, with her recovery going slower than usual on account of her muscular dystrophy.
“I remember for about a week straight not everything was going right, I was still upset about the season, I remember going to the hospital and being in my car crying for a second to get myself together,” Hines said. “It’s hard to see your mom in a vegetative state.”
Hines and his twin sister, Nyah, have done a tremendous amount 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 feared he’d never see his mom walk again, but she’s walking a couple hundred feet each day while re-gaining her strength.
But seeing his mom deteriorate from muscular dystrophy – a rare, genetic condition that encompasses over 40 different specific diseases, including ALS, that cause progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass – has been hard. She’s broken both her hips and her speech and strength have declined over the years. Nyheim and Nyah have had to make difficult decisions and have hard conversations that most people might expect to have with and about a parent in their 40s or 50s, not their mid-20s.
And for Hines, balancing the mental toll of watching the disease progress in his mother with the demands of being a football player is an incredibly difficult challenge.
“Especially in the season, I never get to run away from the stress at times,” Hines said. “Here, even if it’s going good — it’s not that we’re stressed, but I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the best I can be. I know I have a role here and they’re depending on me to do it 100 percent, and I take pride in that every day.
“And then some days I’ll have a bad day here, then I go home and answer the phone and my mom’s struggling or my mom’s fallen — like, my mom’s been in the hospital over 100 days since 2020. It’s been hard. It’s been real tough — every day here is not well and even the good days it can get blown because my mom might’ve fell or something’s happened, or she’s not happy and she’s struggling.
“Honestly, I don’t know how I’ve been able to deal with it, but I’ve had great support.”
Hines and his twin sister find strength in each other to get through the difficult times – to the point that one day, Nyah was crying about their mom and called Nyheim, who was already crying before his sister called him. Talking to Nyah – the “rock” in helping their mom, he said – helps, because he doesn’t have to explain anything or re-count some of the difficult things they’re going through.
But the support of Hines’ professional family with the Colts has been important for his mental health, too. General manager Chris Ballard and head coach Frank Reich regularly check in with Hines about how his mom is doing, and he visits with team clinician Elizabeth White every few weeks, too.
And while Hines isn’t always one to open up about what’s going on with his mom, he plays for a team that unequivocally supports his mental health journey, starting from the top with the Irsay family’s Kicking The Stigma initiative.
“From the Colts and from family, I’ve had a lot of support,” Hines said. “So it’s not just me — and I’ve had a lot of stress because dealing with that stuff, it’s time-consuming, it requires some money and it’s hard on you emotionally. I’m glad I’ve had a lot of support.”
There’s a significant mental toll on Hines’ mother, too. She’s not even 60; at that age, there are still plenty of things she wants to do and see – and do independently. But there was a morning where she fell and broke her hip at 3 a.m.; her nurse wasn’t scheduled to show up until 10 a.m., so she had to wait alone for hours before help arrived.
Hines got the call that his mother broke her hip on his way to the Colts’ facility that day.
“My mom’s 58 years old. That’s still young,” Hines said. “But at 25 years old, my sister and I are like hey, you need assisted living, you need someone with you here 24/7. And that’s hard too because my mom is young. That’s hard on her. And it’s even harder for us to tell her like hey, we’re both not here, if you fall that’s tough.
“… At a young age, we have to tell our mom certain things she can and can’t do like we’re the parent, right? And we’re really not. So it’s been really stressful, and that’s hard.”
But Hines has persevered behind plenty of support and a remarkable outlook on life. He figures, well, I’m a rare player – a 5-foot-9 running back who’s established himself as an explosive, versatile weapon who can run between the tackles and catch passes out of the slot – so I might as well lead a rare life.
“I think the uniqueness of that has kind of helped me with this because it’s rare and a lot of times I’m just like, God, like why is this happening to me? It’s so rare,” Hines said. “I don’t have help, I really don’t know that many people with it. And then I sit back and look at my life, it’s like my athletic career.
“… So I try to use that in my personal life and try to set those parameters so I can’t get to asking God why, and not complaining about the cards I was dealt but playing the hand I was dealt.”
Managing a successful career in the NFL and a mother with muscular dystrophy has made Hines a stronger person. He knows he’s never alone, even if it might feel like it sometimes – he has his sister, he has family, he has his agent and people with the Colts who support him.
And he and Nyah are inspired by the fight in their mom. Hines pushes through workouts or days where he’s tired by thinking about the difficulties his mom faces, like stuff as simple as getting out of bed and brushing her teeth. There’s no quit in Nannette Miller – and there’s no quit in Nyheim Hines.
“It’s been a battle, but shoot,” Hines said, “without her, I probably wouldn’t be here.”
More details on Beyond the Sidelines – including the evening lineup, entertainment, auction items and other opportunities – will be announced in the upcoming weeks and months.
Mental Health Action Day is Thursday, May 19. Check out a list of ways to support the mental health of yourself and those around you below.
The Colts have had clinician Elizabeth White on staff since 2015, and recently began offering employees free mental health services through an Employee Assistance Program.
The Cobain family hoped to find a charity supporting mental health to benefit from the auction, and were drawn to Kicking The Stigma’s mission and accomplishments in the mental health space.
Since the Colts and Irsay family’s “Kicking The Stigma” initiative launched in 2020, more than $16 million has been committed through grants and personal donations by the Irsay family to expand treatment and research and raise awareness of mental health. Applications for 2022 Kicking The Stigma Action Grants are open now.
Fans can get a Kicking The Stigma shirt with a $35 donation supporting Kicking The Stigma Action Grants.
The Irsay family initiative works to raise awareness about mental health disorders and remove the stigma too often associated with these illnesses.
Look back at all videos and social posts from the Indianapolis Colts first Kicking The Stigma Week fundraiser
Kicking The Stigma week begins Monday with a powerful discussion between star NFL players, including the Colts’ Darius Leonard, about mental health with host Carson Daly.
Colts Owner and CEO Jim Irsay joined Jeffrey Gorman on the Colts Official Podcast this week for an insightful 40-minute chat. Here are some of the top takeaways from the episode, which you can listen listen to on the Colts app, Colts.com or wherever you get your podcasts.
New “Kicking The Stigma” public service announcement launched both locally and nationally
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