If you’re watching Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Christmas film Once Upon a Christmas Miracle, then you will likely see that it was based on a true story. Sometimes life presents the most amazing love stories and you don’t have to look any farther than someone’s own life story.
Christopher Dempsey, who had served as a Marine, decided to donate part of his liver to Heather Krueger. They were strangers, but Dempsey felt led to make such a big sacrifice for someone he didn’t know. Krueger was diagnosed with stage 4 liver disease in 2014. After Dempsey’s selfless act, they fell in love and were married in 2016. Their love story went viral, as thousands around the world were inspired by the couple.
In 2014, Krueger, then 27, had already been ill for about two years with stage four liver disease, BBC reported. Doctors told her she only had a 50 percent chance of surviving another two months if she didn’t get a transplant. Her family desperately searched for a donor, but more than 119,000 people were on the transplant waiting list.
While at work in January 2015, Dempsey overheard a co-worker talking about how his cousin needed a liver transplant. Dempsey, 38, thought about how much he would want someone to help him or his family if they were in that situation, and decided to see if he was a match. He had a liver biopsy, MRI, blood work, and physical and psychological testing before he was approved, People reported.
Dempsey told CBS: “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.'”
Dempsey is a code enforcement officer, and even at his job he is always looking for ways to help, the Chicago Tribune reported. When he visited the home of a 90-year-old whose home was in disrepair, he organized 20 volunteers to help repair her home. “Writing a ticket does not solve the problem,” he said. “You h ave to keep a calm head.”
Dempsey and Krueger never even spoke until he called to tell her that he was a match and would be donating part of his liver to her. They met for lunch shortly later and Dempsey paid. Dempsey told People: “I remember thinking how pretty and beautiful she looked. For a person in her situation, she didn’t look sick. She had a smile on her face.”
But donating a liver wasn’t enough. Dempsey and his motorcycle club even worked on fundraising for Krueger to help with hospital bills, BBC reported. As a result, he and Krueger spent more time together.
The surgery was March 16, 2015, and the two had already been on a couple dates by the time the surgery came around. But they didn’t become an official couple until after the surgery was successful. Dempsey said he was nervous something might go wrong in the surgery, even though he never rethought his decision. It took him a couple months to go back to work after the surgery, and another six months before he felt completely normal again. Dempsey said that he and Krueger took walks around the hospital together and saw each other at their worst, People reported.
Dempsey told Krueger that she had no obligation to him, Krueger told Today. “He had told me at the beginning of everything, ‘You owe me absolutely nothing for this. We can go our separate ways if that’s what you want.'”
But Krueger felt just as strongly for Dempsey as he felt for her.
Eight months after the surgery, he proposed during a horse and carriage ride, after asking her father’s permission to marry her during a family barbecue. They were married nearly 19 months after the surgery, in October 2016.
Today, the couple is still happily married and enjoying a great life together. Here’s a photo that Heather shared on Facebook on Thanksgiving this year:
Heather and her mom recently appeared on Gift of Hope to share their story:
On their two year anniversary, Heather wrote on Facebook: “Happy 2 year anniversary to this funny dude! Can you believe in less than 4 years we’ve gone from strangers to transplant buddies to husband and wife?! Our journey has been so unbelievable in a way that it hasn’t just touched our lives but so many others as well. I love telling our story together, going on adventures together, and the best is just snuggling up on the couch together. I am so looking forward to what is yet to come! I love you so much!”
Now their story is a Hallmark movie. Here are some photos Heather shared from behind-the-scenes during filming:
Are you inspired by this couple’s story? Let us know in the comments below.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story said the couple were married in October 2015, they were married in October 2016.