NY couple mends each other's heart

ROCHESTER, New York - At the University of Rochester's Strong Memorial Hospital, two heart transplant patients are shedding new light on the mechanics of healing.

After they got their new hearts, 68-year-old Esther FitzRandolph and 68-year-old Danny Pszczolkowski both suffered from complications and depression. They'd all but given up.

"I didn't want to do anything," said FitzRandolph. "I would just sit around."

"I kind of refused the exercises and all that, at times," said Pszczolkowski.

But a few months ago, both these patients started improving -- dramatically.

Cardiologist Dr. Leway Chen and the rest of the staff here were pleasantly confounded.

"And we talked and said, 'Yeah, she's doing better now, I wonder why?'" said Chen. "And' yes, he's been more active and involved in his care, I wonder why.''"

Was he on something?

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68-year-old Esther FitzRandolph and 68-year-old Danny Pszczolkowski in their Rochester, N.Y. home
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Same thing she was on, it turns out.

"I wanted to do more things," said FitzRandolph. "I wanted to walk. I wanted to ride a bike!"

So what was this miracle drug? What had they found that so dramatically accelerated their recoveries? Just ... each other.

After their surgeries, Danny and Esther kept running into each other at follow-up appointments. And although she was twice divorced and not looking for another man -- and he was a committed, lifelong bachelor -- they started dating ... and healing.

"When your mind is in a better place, and your heart, then you're going to heal better," said FitzRandolph.

Dr. Chen says that's true.

Is this science anymore?

"Not science that we can put our finger on," said Chen.

He says there have been plenty of studies linking love and support to health and heart. Although he admits, there's never been a case study quite as compelling as this one.

And as for the happy couple, they're now enjoying life on carefree lane. Seriously, they moved in together on Carefree Lane. The lifelong bachelor now has flowered coffee mugs.

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Esther FitzRandolph and Danny Pszczolkowski walk near their home on Carefree Ln.
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"This is even worst (sic)" said Pszczolkowski, holding up even more flowery ceramics.

Living with a woman will clearly take some getting used to.

"Honey, it's 'worse', not 'worst,'" said FitzRandolph.

But he says those side effects are a small price to pay for this wonder drug.

"I recommend it to anybody," said FitzRandolph.

To survive, Danny and Esther both needed new hearts -- but to truly live, they needed sweethearts, too.

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Esther FitzRandolph and Danny Pszczolkowski walk through Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.Y.
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  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.