DETROIT – Thousands of people will cross the Ambassador Bridge on foot Sunday during the Detroit Free Press Marathon. Among those runners will be two organ transplant recipients and one of the healthcare workers who helped them recover.

The Ambassador Bridge can be seen from miles away, including from the windows of Henry Ford Hospital, and for two liver transplant recipients recovering, it became a beacon of hope.

Jeff Mueller and Dave Galbenski can strive for greatness because of someone else’s generosity.

“I’m a grateful recipient of a living donor liver transplant almost four years now from my brother-in-law, Mark Davis,” said Galbenski.

That’s not the only thing they have in common, as they were both patients of Karen Ostrwski at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

“I’ve seen both of them near death, and to see them like this healthy skin, good paler, you know, happy is such an incredible, incredible reward,” said Transplant Surgery Nurse Practitioner Karen Ostrowski at Henry Ford Health.

Ostrowski connected the two after Mueller’s stay went from weeks to months.

“I kept thinking of Dave is a runner,” Ostrowski said. “Jeff was a runner. Jeff thinks he will never run again. Dave will talk him into being a runner.”

The two men exchanged numbers, and Galbenski visited Mueller in the hospital.

“I was very weak and couldn’t even get out of bed,” Mueller said. “But Dave, being the optimist that he is, looked out my hospital window at the Detroit skyline, pointed out the Ambassador Bridge, and said, ‘Someday when you’re healthy enough, you and I are going to run across that bridge together’ and I thought my running days are over. You’re crazy. There’s no way.”

But less than a year later, Mueller started running again.

“Because of my brother-in-law Mark, I get a chance to pay it forward, and I don’t take that for granted,” Galbenski said. “And that’s why you take those moments when you connect with other people, and you set a vision, and then you just go out and do it.”

“I think it’s rare in life to really see the human spirit pick itself up and push itself forward in everyday people,” Ostrowski said.

Running across the finish line for both men will be a full-circle moment well-earned.

“I’ve already got that vision of us right on the top of that Ambassador bridge because I can see it clearly from the first time we pointed it out to Karen and to Jeff, that sun coming up over the Detroit River, Belle Isle, even if it’s rainy or cloudy,” Galbenski said. “It’s going to be sunny in our mind, and we’re just going to have that moment to gather.”

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