by Susan Lafferty: Their lifesaving love story was one in a million – a fairy tale of sorts…
This movie, which is part of Hallmark’s “Movies and Mysteries” holiday series, is based on the true story of a south suburban couple – Heather Krueger and Chris Dempsey.
They recently told their tale during a television interview on Hallmark’s Home and Family show with hosts Cameron Mathison and Debbie Matenopoulos.
The Daily Southtown has chronicled their story, which began early in 2015.
The two were complete strangers – meeting only after Dempsey volunteered to donate half of his liver to Krueger, of Tinley Park, who had autoimmune hepatitis. She had been on a waiting list, but her need became so critical that her doctors suggested she look for a live donor.
Dempsey, a Frankfort village employee at the time, overheard a co-worker talking in the breakroom about his cousin’s need for a liver transplant.
“I don’t know what it’s like to be in that situation. If this were someone in my family, I would want someone to do the same for me,” Dempsey said in a 2015 interview with the Daily Southtown, explaining why he stepped forward.
Dempsey, a Marine Corps vet, also teamed up with his motorcycle club to host a benefit to help cover her medical expenses.
The couple could not be reached for comment recently, but in the Home and Family interview, Dempsey said it was while he and Krueger worked together on that event that he began thinking, ‘this is someone I would like to spend the rest of my life with.’
“He literally saw me at my worst … it can only go up from there,” said Krueger in that interview.
They underwent successful operations in March 2015, and he proposed in December, after Christmas shopping, lunching and taking a horse and carriage ride in downtown Chicago — just like in the Hallmark movie.
The couple even made a cameo appearance in the movie – dancing in the background at the fundraising event.
In the Home and Family interview, Dempsey said it was “totally surreal” to see their story become a movie.
“Never in a million years … I was just trying to help somebody,” he said in that television interview.
For his bride, “It means the world to me just to be here. I didn’t know if I would see another Christmas or birthday.”
In the movie, Aimee Teegarden portrays Krueger, and Brett Dalton is Dempsey.
They also hope the movie raises awareness about the need for organ donors.
“I would like people to learn how horrific it is to go through that. People lose their lives every day waiting for transplant. You have no idea the impact you make on someone’s life by donating an organ,” Krueger said.
According to the TV interview, in the three years since the transplant, Krueger has finished school, and they both volunteer with the non-profit Gift of Hope, which connects organ donors and recipients. They are buying a house and are in the process of adopting a baby.
A Christmas miracle indeed.