An Act Of Kindness From A Complete Stranger

December 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Inspiring People

On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, Dan Heins had a routine: kidney dialysis from 6 to 10 a.m.; breakfast at the Main Street Deli in Anoka, Minnesota; working at his insurance office down the block. The 56-year-old owner of the deli, Nancy Volk, knew that Heins’s type 1 diabetes was responsible for his kidney failure and the amputation of his leg. And Dan knew that Nancy, a single mother with three grown daughters, worked two other jobs to keep the deli open and meet her house payments.

One morning as he ordered his breakfast, Dan, 58, confided he would be on kidney dialysis the rest of his life if he didn’t receive a transplant. Nancy didn’t hesitate. “I’ll donate,” she said simply. A casual acquaintance volunteering on the spot to give him an internal organ? It seemed unreal to Dan, and Nancy had to spend weeks convincing him she was serious. The day before Thanksgiving in 2007, the results of the medical tests came in: She was a match.

Nancy Volk and Dan Heins
Photographed by Kevin J. Myazak/REDUX
Nancy Volk and Dan Heins

In the months leading up to the transplant, Dan’s other leg was amputated and Nancy’s financial situation grew grim.
As much as she loved the deli, she decided to close it last September. At the same time, her home was going into foreclosure. Dan’s insurance would cover her surgery costs, but she wouldn’t be able to work the part-time jobs for six weeks. And there was no guarantee they’d be there when she recovered.

Deli regular Steve Ohlsen put a wicker donation box near the register. There was a bake sale and a silent auction.
In one month, the people of Anoka gave Nancy several thousand dollars—enough to cover payments on her newly refinanced home while she recovered.

“This was just local people reaching into their pockets,” says Ohlsen.

Nancy and Dan had their surgeries in September. Four months later, Dan is off dialysis, and Nancy has sent thank-you notes to her supporters. She included a kidney bean in each envelope.

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