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Release of Likeness

"In gratitude for the second chance at life that Dean was given, we donate blood to save lives and help people in the community."

Dean Wahlberg had been donating blood for years until the spring of 2008 when he was admitted to the intensive care unit at St. Mary’s Hospital of Duluth with two brain aneurysms. After two surgeries in eight days, he suffered a stroke and lost both his ability to speak and his short-term memory. When his high school sweetheart, Shelly, who worked at the hospital as a pharmacy technician learned of Dean’s condition from his mother, she immediately began visiting him regularly. Shelly would read his “Get Well Soon” cards to him. And even though Dean was in severe pain and receiving nourishment through a feeding tube, Shelly’s company made him smile.

Shelly supported Dean through subsequent surgeries, various treatments, and his entire recovery. Over the following five months, Dean went through rehab and therapy, learning how to read, write, and talk again. “I’d call her saying I needed help with my homework and she’d help me learn to read all over again,” recalls Dean with tears of gratitude. He was eventually able to return to work.

“Then one day in July, Dean called me to say he was lonely. But really, he just wanted to tell me that he was in love with me! That’s when I knew he wanted to marry me,” laughs Shelly. The romance flourished and they were married in August 2009.

That same month, they were approached by Memorial Blood Centers to donate blood at the Extreme Makeover-Home Edition event in the Northland. Shelly hadn’t donated blood for 30 years because she had fainted after her last donation. However, Memorial Blood Centers’ staff explained how much easier and more convenient it is to donate blood today. And at that moment, Dean and Shelly donated blood together and decided to continue giving because they believed it was a positive and meaningful way to start off their marriage. “We really believe in helping save lives because Dean was given a second chance at life—and we were given a second chance at love,” says Shelly.