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Newlyweds gain second chance at love and life after heart transplants

They got second chances at life, so they thought, maybe with their new hearts, they shouldn't miss another beat.

ROCHESTER, Minn. — Walk the same path over and over, and you just might run into coincidence.

"We were both members at the Rochester Country Club, probably met initially 16 years ago," Sheila Daley said.

Daley and Jim Dunbar knew of each other. Back then, their hearts belonged to others but they were acquaintances. 

Several years passed and Daley heard news of Dunbar's heart.

"I’d heard when Jimmy had his heart attack, and he wasn’t in very good shape," Daley said.

"My heart was crushed by CPR and so they had to take it out, put in a total artificial heart," Dunbar added, somewhat nonchalantly.

Dunbar lived with an artificial heart in the hospital for 10 months. Finally, at the end of a long road, he was able to find a donor match at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona back in 2015. However, that wasn't the end to a heart-related story.

"Right around the time he was transplanted I was diagnosed with a genetic heart condition," Daley said. "My condition was progressive and there wasn’t a cure for it."

Daley too needed a new heart, and it was the only way. Two different illnesses converged into one path to treatment for both Daley and Dunbar.

Back in Rochester, while Daley waited for her match, she ran into Dunbar.

"I was coming this way and she was going that way," Dunbar said. 

"I said, 'how're you doing Jimmy? I know you had your transplant and I might need a transplant,'" Daley replied.

"I knew I could give her some good advice and help her walk through it," Dunbar said, recalling that's when he thought he could be helpful to Daley's upcoming recovery.

A journey, no matter how hard, becomes easier to navigate when you have a guide.

"It really helps to have someone understand what you’re going through," Dunbar said. 

"It was just all so unknown to me and to see him be so healthy after what he had been through was very encouraging," Daley added.

In their case, that guidance eventually grew into love.

"Years later we were both in the dating scene," Daley said with a laugh.

Daley was soon matched with a donor in 2020. Turns out, it was at the same clinic as Dunbar's and also with the same surgeon. 

And considering at this point, they both got second chances at life, they thought, maybe with their new hearts, they shouldn't miss another beat. So the couple, with the magic of two's following them, decided they should get married on 02/22/2022, on a Tuesday. 

"2-22-22 so I wouldn't forget," Dunbar joked.

"Two of us, and then a second chance at love, second chance at life," Daley said. "So '2' kind of really developed a more significant meaning I guess than what we anticipated."

And what's the routine for the newlyweds who have already faced both sickness and health?

"We get to wake up every day and take our meds and fill our pill boxes and remind each other of taking your meds," Daley said with a laugh.

"And we continue to just push each other. That’s the beauty of it."

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