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Living Liver Donation Leads to Marriage for UI Health Patients

CBS Liver Transplant Viceo

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

It was just before Heather Krueger's 25th birthday, in March 2014, when she was diagnosed with stage 4 liver disease. By June, she was in liver failure.

"I was told I had less than a 50 percent chance of living more than two months. It was traumatic," Krueger, told ABC.

Enter Chris Dempsey. Dempsey, who works for the village of Frankfort, Illinois, overheard a co-worker talking about a cousin — Krueger — who needed a liver transplant. Despite having never met the woman, he got tested to see if he was a match.

"I spent four years in the Marine Corps and learned there never to run away from anything, Dempsey told CBS." So, I just said to myself, 'Hey, if I can help, I'm going to help.'" So, Dempsey got tested.

"It's extremely hard to find a living donor. I had so many people who tested," Krueger told the Chicago Tribune.

To be a match, he needed to have the same blood type, be in good health, and have a similarly sized liver. Most people who get tested to be a living donor don't meet all the qualifications, but Dempsey was a perfect match.

"He called me and said the tests came out great, let's do this, I'm a match, I'm your donor," Krueger told ABC. "I couldn't believe it."

In March 2015, the pair underwent surgeries at UI Health — more than 8 hours long — to remove 55 percent of Chris' liver and transplant it into Krueger's body. The transplantation was successful Chris and Heather formed a relationship over the roughly two-month recovery process, and by the end of 2015 they were engaged. The couple was married Oct. 15, 2016, in Tinley Park, Illinois.

"You are the most incredible man I have ever known," Heather read in her vows. "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."

Visit the Liver Transplant Program at UI Health to learn more about living donor organ donation.