Heart Transplants Lead to Romance and a Partnership Commitment
Esther FitzRandolph and Danny Pszczolkowski received life-saving transplants and found love. On Nov. 29, 2014, they walked down the aisle and participated in a commitment ceremony at Strong Memorial Hospital.
Names of Heart Recipients
Danny Pszczolkowski (pronounced sho-KOW-ski).
Esther and Danny reside in the Buffalo, NY area. They are both now settled in Danny’s home, which is located in Cheektowaga, NY.
Danny explains it this way: “Believe it not, we lived about four miles apart. So we decided instead of visiting each other, why not live together?”
Esther was previously twice married and divorced. Her second husband passed away ten years ago. She has three children and six grandchildren.
Danny is a bachelor. His closest family member is an older brother.
UPDATE — A VERY SPECIAL MOMENT! On Nov. 29, 2014, Esther and Danny walked down the aisle and participated in a commitment ceremony at University of Rochester Medical Center/Strong Memorial Hospital.
WALKING DOWN THE AISLE — READ THE STORIES AND SEE THE VIDEOS:
For a short time, Esther was a beautician, but her poor health—asthma and lung problems—didn’t allow her to continue in her career.
For his part, Danny is a former postal worker. After working for the U.S. Postal Service for 22 years, he retired in 1991.
Illnesses That Led to the Transplants
As a child, Esther had Rheumatic Fever. According to the website WebMD, “…the greatest danger from the disease is the damage it can do to the heart. In more than half of all cases, rheumatic fever scars the valves of the heart, forcing this vital organ to work harder to pump blood.”
A virus caused Esther’s heart to pump at only 10 percent of capacity. Danny suffered heart attacks and strokes.
In Esther’s case, she continued to suffer from chest pains and finally it was diagnosed as mitral valve prolapse (MVP), when the heart valve between the left upper and lower chambers doesn’t close properly. In her mid-thirties, Esther needed a pacemaker and, later, a valve replaced.
Danny’s health issues began in 2000 when he suffered a heart attack. In 2002, after another heart attack and two strokes, he was referred to Strong Memorial Hospital
When They Were Listed for Heart Transplants
With a virus causing her heart to pump at only 10 percent of capacity, and also because of restrictive lung disease, Esther was hospitalized. She was on the list for five weeks before she received her transplant.
Danny was listed around two and half months before the transplant.
Hospital, Age When Transplanted and Dates of Transplants
Both were 64-years-old when they were transplanted at the University of Rochester Medical Center/Strong Memorial Hospital.
Esther: August 30, 2010
Danny: April 24, 2011, Easter Sunday.
Esther is 68; Danny turns 68 in November 2014.
Esther met the family of her donor around Thanksgiving a year after the transplant. They came to her house.
“My donor had a brain aneurism, it was very sad,” Esther says. “She had three children and had just graduated from nursing school. When we met her family, it was so emotional. The mother of my donor felt my heart and she and her family met my family.”
At this stage, Danny doesn’t know anything about his donor. He wrote an anonymous letter in September 2014 and is hoping to hear back from the donor’s family.
They continued to phone and text each other. Then one day, Danny showed up at Esther’s house.
How and When They Met
They met as patients at UR Medical Center’s Strong Memorial Hospital. Danny was waiting for his transplant at the same time Esther was hospitalized for a bout of rejection.
A friend of Danny’s who was in the hospital at the same time they were, introduced Danny to Esther. The friend, who was one of Danny’s roommates at the time, lives 40 miles from them. Danny says, “That’s what got the whole started, basically.”
Esther and Danny would see each other when they went for cardiac rehabilitation and at a blood lab. Transplant coordinator Liz Powley encouraged the two getting together by sharing telephone numbers. They continued to phone and text each other.
And then, one day in February 2014, Danny decided to act decisively by going to Esther’s house uninvited. “He just showed up,” Esther says, laughing. Their first date was a free meal in March at a local church, and they are committed to volunteering there.
Health Since the Transplant
Overall, Esther is doing well. She keeps busy and tries to stay healthy by eating sensibly and exercising.
Danny feels good. He has a pacemaker, and is now in remission for lung cancer that occurred in 2013.
How They Spend Their Second Chance at Life — TOGETHER
Esther is still unpacking as the couple settles down. They go out quite a bit. For example, Esther and Danny have visited a casino. Recently, they decided to picnic in a nearby park—devoting time to each other without the distraction of cell phones. Dan does a lot of the outside work.
“I spend time with my friends at a senior center,” Esther says, “and Dan will show up. They just love him!”
They Have a Lot in Common. What About Differences, Personality-Wise?
Esther admits to being “a neat freak and wanting everything is done yesterday” whereas Danny isn’t in a rush. They kid each other about these differences!
What Their Transplants and Love Means to Each of Them
After going through what they did, Esther says it’s easy to see things clearly. Not only is she grateful for receiving a new heart, she thinks a lot about the patients still waiting for organs. “When you think about what they’re going through, there’s nothing to complain about.”
They both want people to donate organs after seeing how well they’re doing and how transplants helped them. The couple want to thank everyone involved in getting them their new hearts.
For example, because of the donation and transplant, Esther was able to see her daughter get married and it meant she could raise her granddaughter who is now 18 “and on her own.”
After being a bachelor and taking care of several family members who faced health challenges, Danny is finally experiencing good health — and he has found the right person in Esther. Danny sees his relationship with her and the transplant as being “part of a new life. I’ve come out of my shell. Meeting Esther now means the world to me.”
Esther responds, saying, “Our love is unconditional. It’s about me caring about him and him caring about me, forever.”
2 Heart Transplants Lead to 1 Romance for Buffalo Couple (From the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Newsroom.)