When a code-enforcement officer in Frankfort, Illinois decided to donate half his liver to someone that had never met before, in order to save their life, he had no idea that person would one day become his life partner.
In March 2014, completely out of the blue, 27-years-old Heather Kruger was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer, and learned that she only had a few months left to live. Doctors told her that her only chance for survival was a liver transplant, but with so little time left, waiting for a liver from the state’s transplant list was not the best option, so they suggested finding a living donor. “They immediately told me I was going to need a transplant,” she recalls. “There was not much time to find a donor. By that time I could really feel my body shutting down.”
Her salvation came from a total stranger. Code-enforcement officer Chris Dempsey was in the lunch break room when he overheard Kruger’s cousin, Jack Dwyer, talking about her health problem and how she needed to find a donor or she would die. Dempsey had never heard about this person, let alone met her in person, but he immediately knew he wanted to help. “I spent four years in the Marine Corps and learned there never to run away from anything. So I just said to myself, ‘Hey, if I can help, I’m going to help,'” he says. So Chris just approached Dwyer and told him he wanted to get tested to see if he was a compatible donor, and it turned out that the two were a perfect match.
When Heather heard what a total stranger was willing to do for her, she simply couldn’t believe it. “I got off the phone and ran down the hallway, and my mother and I were both crying our eyes out in disbelief,” she remembers. The two met for the first time, shortly after that, to talk about the details of the medical procedure. Then they hecked into the University of Illinois Hospital for the operation – which involved removing about half of Chris’ liver – and everything went perfectly.
Both their livers have since regenerated and apart from some initial complications and Heather regularly having to take anti-rejection medication, they both live perfectly healthy lives.
After the surgery, even though Chris told Heather “You owe me absolutely nothing for this. We can go our separate ways if that’s what you want,” she felt that there was a special bond between them. She admits that it was confusing at first, because she thought she might be feeling this way because of the his incredible act of kindness, but as time went by she realized it went beyond that.
The two remained in touch, steadily became closer and, last year, on December 10, Chris asked Heather to marry him, to which she enthusiastically answered “yes”. Earlier this month, they got married in a beautiful ceremony, and Heather used her vow to let her husband know just how much he means to her. “You are the most incredible man I have ever known. You believe in me and you make me feel amazing every single day. Because of you, I laugh, smile and I dare to dream again,” she wrote.
Looking back at the last few years, Heather says she still can’t believe everything that has happened. “I think about all the what-ifs, like the fact that he normally didn’t go into that break room for lunch, or that my cousin is a seasonal worker who happened to be in there that day, or whether someone else would have come forward, and would it have been in time?” Krueger told TODAY.com. “I had an angel watching over me.”
“I think first of all that it shows everyone, when all you hear is negativity, that there really are sincerely true, kind people out there,” she concluded.
May they have a long and happy life together!