“Once Upon a Christmas Miracle” is a Hallmark movie, falling into their “Movies and Mysteries” holiday series. It tells the true story of Heather Krueger and Chris Dempsey, a couple that met when Chris donated part of his liver to Heather, who has autoimmune hepatitis.
About Autoimmune Hepatitis
Autoimmune hepatitis is a rare and chronic autoimmune condition that sees the body attack its own liver cells, resulting in inflammation and damage to the liver. Medical professionals are unsure what causes this condition, but they suspect that it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Regardless of cause, affected individuals experience fatigue, an enlarged liver, abdominal pain, skin rashes, joint pain, jaundice, a loss of menstruation, and abnormal blood vessels on the skin. Doctors will prescribe prednisone or azathioprine to slow or stop the immune system in its attack on the liver, therefore reducing these symptoms. If one’s case is severe, they will require a liver transplant.
Heather and Chris’ Story
Back at the beginning of 2015, Chris and Heather were still strangers. They led separate lives, completely unaware that the other existed. It was not until Heather required a live donor in order to treat her autoimmune hepatitis that they met.
She had been waiting for a liver for a long time, but her quickly worsening condition made the need to critical to remain on the wait list. Doctors suggested that she look for a live donor instead, which is where Chris came in. He overheard a coworker talking about his cousin’s need for a donor and decided that he would do it.
Not only did he agree to donate half of his liver to Heather, but he organized a benefit with his motorcycle club to cover the expenses of the transplant. In fact, it was the planning and running of this benefit that brought the two together. Heather spoke of the event and their connection, saying that Chris, “literally saw [her] at [her] worst,” and that she knew it could only get better from there.
In March of 2015, the couple underwent the transplant. Just nine months later, Chris proposed after a ride in a horse-drawn carriage in Chicago. The Hallmark movie depicts this scene, which the couple thinks is “surreal.” When asked about their opinions on the movie, they spoke of their disbelief that one even existed. “I was just trying to help somebody,” Chris said.
While the two are very excited about their journey becoming a movie, they also hope that the film raises awareness for the need for organ donors. They hope that more people begin to donate organs, as it is something that can change and save lives. In fact, they both volunteer with Gift of Hope, a nonprofit that connects donors with those in need.
The couple is now in the process of buying a house and starting a family, and they hope that this movie educates about the need for organ donors, raises awareness for rare diseases, and makes people smile.
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