Health & Wellness

Man donates liver to stranger and marries her 2 years later

Not a day goes by that Heather Dempsey doesn't let her husband know how grateful she is for him.

"I'll be working or doing something else and randomly get a text from her reminding me how much she loves me and how she couldn't be happier," Christopher Dempsey, Heather's husband, told TODAY.

The two lovebirds, who just tied the knot on October 15, found each other in what some may consider an unconventional way.

Courtesy of Christopher Dempsey
Christopher and Heather Dempsey on their wedding day.

RELATED: Illinois man makes life-saving liver donation to woman, sparking a romance

During lunch one day in January 2015, Dempsey, 38, a code enforcement officer in Frankfort, Illinois, overheard a colleague talking about how his cousin could die if she doesn't find a liver donor soon.

Without thinking twice, he went and got himself tested.

"I thought to myself, if I were in that situation or someone in my family was, I'd want someone to help," Dempsey said.

Shortly after finding out he was a match, he called Heather personally to tell her the news.

Courtesy of Christopher Dempsey
The couple getting to know each other in an unusual setting.

Heather had been diagnosed with stage 4 liver disease in March 2014. Just a few months later, her liver failed and she was told she had a 50 percent chance of living another two months.

RELATED: After her tragic death, a 14-year-old girl's organ donation saves a teen's life

"I met her for lunch a week after I called her and just remember thinking how beautiful she looked," Dempsey said. "You'd never believe she was battling this terrible disease."

Courtesy of Christopher Dempsey
Man donates liver to stranger and marries her 2 years later

Aside from deciding to donate his liver to Heather, Dempsey wanted to help in other ways. In the weeks leading up to their surgeries, he planned a fundraiser with his motorcycle club to raise money for Heather's medical expenses.

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See Zion Harvey, the first child to get a double hand transplant, 1 year later

Play Video - 1:58

See Zion Harvey, the first child to get a double hand transplant, 1 year later

Play Video - 1:58

"She had such a positive attitude toward this whole situation and made me want to get to know her better," Dempsey said.

In March 2015, both she and Dempsey underwent liver transplant surgery, in separate operating rooms, at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago.

They became very close while recovering from surgery and by the time July rolled around, Dempsey knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her and asked her father for permission at a family barbecue.

About a year after hearing Heather's name for the first time, Dempsey took her to lunch at the top of the John Hancock Center and then on a romantic horse-and-carriage ride, which ended with him on one knee, asking her to marry him.

Courtesy of Christopher Dempsey
Christopher proposing to Heather after a horse-and-carriage ride around Chicago.

Almost two years after that fateful first phone call, the couple exchanged vows in front of 300 people, including the doctor who performed the surgery, whom Dempsey thanked during his speech.

RELATED: 'I have a new beginning': Teen gets life-saving donation from unexpected place

"Never in a million years did I think any of this would happen," Dempsey said. "I thought I was just trying to help someone, but it was the best decision I ever made."

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