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Couple’s marriage is truly ‘a matter of the heart’
Marlin and Sharon Tanneberger are the winners of the 2014 Wilson County News Love Story contest. They win two nights at the Omni Hotels & Resorts Corpus Christi.
Meet the Wilson County News 2014 Love Story contest winners -- Marlin and Sharon Tanneberger of La Vernia.
Their story -- shared with permission and edited for length from a 2008 Hermann Sons article -- is truly a matter of the heart!
During the 2007 holiday season, Marlin Tanneberger’s family gathered around his hospital bed prepared to say their final goodbyes as his frail heart slowly gave out. These days Marlin is home spending time with his son, daughter, their spouses, his granddaughter, and the love of his life for more than 40 years, wife Sharon.
The Tannebergers’ story tells how hope, faith, and love brought them through his near-death experience, his life-saving heart transplant, her hip surgery, and a whole new way of life for both of them.
At a family Christmas celebration on Dec. 22, 2007, Marlin began to feel so ill he left the party to go outside and rest in the car. As they checked up on him, his family realized he was seriously ill and needed to get to a hospital. He was admitted at Southeast Baptist Hospital in critical condition.
His vital signs were at dangerous levels, his enzyme levels were too high, his EKGs were very irregular, and, most critical, blood flow to his heart was falling to extremely dangerous levels. Instead of the 55 to 75 percent normal blood flow, his had dropped to less than 10 percent, causing his organs to shut down.
By Christmas Day, the family knew they were losing him.
Marlin had been diagnosed earlier in the year with cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle. The medications he had been taking were no longing working and doctors were not optimistic.
Marlin was transferred to Northeast Baptist Hospital, but to complicate matters, many of the doctors he needed were on holiday vacation.
Sharon never left his side.
Marlin’s doctors informed the family there was no hope without a new heart and he was transferred to Methodist Hospital, where he underwent tests to determine if he was a good candidate for a heart transplant. In early January, still waiting for a heart, Marlin was stabilized enough to be able to go home -- but still required constant care.
In February, Marlin was fitted with a ventricular assist device (VAD) --a mechanical pump that helped his weak heart pump blood until a heart transplant could be performed.
Sharon said the surgery rendered Marlin helpless, but she was there to do everything for him.
She recalls sleeping on concrete waiting room floors and at one point slept tethered to him with a rope, so if he tried moving too much it would wake her before he could hurt himself.
Marlin named the VAD “Henrietta” and teased there was a chicken in that box, “because it squeaked and squawked.” He remained in the hospital for 10 long weeks.
Going home with the life-saving pump was an ordeal. Not only did the Tannebergers have to learn all about how the device worked, but the hospital personnel insisted all emergency medical teams near their home be informed.
The Tannebergers arrived home to find their street lined with EMS personnel, city officials, and other volunteers ready to learn all about the VAD and offer assistance.
Despite the challenges, Marlin was determined to be part of their daughter’s wedding. Sharon and Marlin, with “Henrietta” in tow, were able to walk Tiffany down the aisle.
Eventually, the call came that a heart had been found for Marlin.
The transplant surgery had some issues, but finally, Marlin was in a room, resting and recovering.
Sharon went to look in on him before visiting hours.
“Well, I looked in on him and he’s awake! He looks at me, reaches out his hand and says, ‘You sure look pretty. Where have you been?’”
She explained she had slept on the waiting room floor and asked, “Did you miss me?”
“I did,” Marlin said. And then told her, “I love you.”
“And I love you too!” Sharon happily responded.
“You couldn’t have brought me down off that cloud if you tried!” Sharon laughed.
Eight days later, Marlin was released from the hospital.
“He’s done really well and had a good attitude through it,” Sharon said.
“You have to have faith,” Marlin said. “You’re not in control -- so why worry? Without faith I would not have made it, no way.”
“So many times we knew it was God’s work,” Sharon said.
That and, according to Marlin, having Sharon by his side.
“Well, that’s just an obvious fact,” he said. “That kind of support -- it’s unbelievable. I don’t know how anyone could make it without that.”
How have they managed to keep the love and romance so strong after so many years?
“We do everything together,” Sharon said.
Marlin said spending time with Sharon has always been his priority.
Only three weeks after Marlin’s heart transplant, Sharon fell and broke her hip, requiring surgery and a painful recovery. Tiffany and her husband, Chris, came to help out and now live with them.
“Today we’re doing pretty good,” Sharon said looking over at Marlin. “So many of the little things I used to think were so important, well, they just aren’t.”
As they finished posing for a final photo on their favorite outdoor swing, Marlin turned to go back to the house, but not before reaching for Sharon’s hand.
Love Story entries
Marlin and Sharon Tanneberger, La Vernia -- first place
Johnny and Elaine Forrest, Adkins -- second place
Also sharing their stories were: Melvin and Linda Kimbro, Floresville; Charles and Carolyn Hutto, La Vernia; Roger and Barbara Magor Deel, La Vernia; Victor and Ivarene Hosek, Floresville; Russell and Kate Wilson, Floresville; David and Luci Roser, Adkins; Mike and Hope Osteen, Adkins; Luke Foster and Victoria Schneider, Floresville; Douglas and Lacy Boatright, Nixon; Patrick and Danie Martinez, Adkins; and Ken and Carmen Casey, La Vernia.
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