Rich '89 and Heidi (Petros) Danhof '88 have taken the “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” part of their marriage vows to a new level. Photo courtesy of the Danhofs.
by Sharyn Kopf—Cedarville, Ohio
April 20, 2009
Rich ’89 and Heidi (Petros) Danhof ’88 have taken the “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” part of their marriage vows to a new level. On February 24, a surgeon at the Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio, successfully transplanted one of Rich’s kidneys into Heidi, saving her life. And the doctor said that in 30 years of performing such surgeries, he has never seen one perform as well as in Heidi’s case.
The couple met as teenagers and have been together ever since. Heidi was already sick at the time — an auto-immune disease had started attacking her kidneys at the age of 9. When she was in high school, doctors put her on a two-and-a-half-year chemotherapy program that ended while she was finishing her associate’s degree in business administration at Cedarville. This involved regular treatments at the National Institute of Health in Washington, D.C. Nevertheless, her kidneys continued to deteriorate and five years ago were at only 25 percent of their normal function.
After graduating from Cedarville, Rich and Heidi married in D.C., then moved to Dayton, where Rich had landed a job as an accountant. Despite the difficulties Heidi faced during pregnancy, she gave birth to two sons. Everything seemed fine … until last October.
“All of a sudden,” Rich says, “Heidi started seeing symptoms that her kidneys weren’t working as they should. A biopsy showed she had a lot of clogging and scarring. After about two to three weeks, everyone realized her kidneys were done and they couldn’t bring them back.”
Surprisingly, Heidi was the one taken off guard. “I was completely shocked,” she says. “Rich always thought that day would come, but I didn’t, so it was devastating when it happened.”
Though many people spend years waiting for a donor, 15 people immediately offered to be tested. Among them were Heidi’s brother, Tony, and Rich. Both were a match, but Rich stepped forward as the donor. “I thought if I could do this for Heidi,” he says, “that’s something I should do.”
Knowing that people all over the world were praying for them, thanks in part to their webpage at www.CaringBridge.org, Rich and Heidi went side-by-side into surgery. They stayed in the same room, resting and healing together.
Today, Heidi is healthier than she’s been in 10 years. “We didn’t see the impact of the disease poisoning her system,” says Rich, “but now we can see how much better she is.”
“It’s been an amazing, memorable experience,” Heidi adds. “To go through this whole thing with him has definitely drawn us closer. We’ve both done so well, they’re calling us their star patients.”
After two weeks, Rich was back to his job as CFO for Clark’s Rx, and Heidi was able to start working from home after a week and a half. Both admit they’re now back to a pretty normal life.
For the Danhofs, having the support, encouragement and prayers of friends and family helped them truly appreciate the “good that comes out of crummy circumstances.” Rich compares their situation to Abraham and Isaac — a chance to remember that God is worthy of our trust.
“It’s been quite a journey, and we still have a ways to go,” he says. “But we’ve gotten through it, and we’re better as a result. We’re doing good now.”
To find out more about the Danhofs experience, visit www.caringbridge.org and enter heidi_danhof as the website name.