After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) nearly twenty years ago, Jennifer Digmann thought she could never fall in love, until it happened.
Dan Digmann, a 1995 Wartburg alumnus, and Jennifer have both been diagnosed with MS, which is an autoimmune disorder that tears a person’s nerves apart. Despite their condition, they have lived happily together for nearly ten years.
“Right now, there is no cure for MS,” Dan Digmann said. “It’s a nerve, not a muscle, disease.”
The couple visited Wartburg on Oct. 30 to share their story and message with anyone willing to listen.
“Who would have ever thought…that I would: get diagnosed with an Earth-shattering, life-altering disease, meet the man of my dreams and end up in Waverly, Iowa to talk about multiple sclerosis,” Jennifer Digmann said.
In 1997, Jennifer Digmann was diagnosed with secondary-progressive MS, which means her condition slowly worsens.
Two years later, Dan Digmann was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS, which means he is still functional but will still have irritations.
“It’s like snowflakes,” Jennifer Digmann said. “Everybody’s case is different.”
Dan met Jennifer at a National MS Society program called “Finding your Buried Treasure.” The program was intended to help people with MS find their life goals. Jennifer worked as a group leader and she saw a “cute guy” walk in.
“When I saw him come in earlier, I assumed that he was somebody’s husband,” Jennifer Digmann said. “I thought no, you know, there is no future relationships in my future just because I’m in a wheelchair.”
When Dan first talked to Jennifer, he knew he this was something special.
“I met her on a Saturday. Monday morning, I went into the office and Stacy, the designer I work with, asked how the weekend was,” Dan Digmann said. “And I said, ‘Stacy, I have met the woman I am going to marry, and you’re going to be the best man.”
Communication after the program was a little slow at first. Dan wrote Jennifer an email to spark up another conversation. Eventually, emails turned into phone calls, which led to them dating.
After dating for two years, the couple questioned whether or not they should get married.
“Are you really going to take the next step and get married?” Dan Digmann said. “You’ve got MS and I’ve got MS. Is this really something that could happen?”
Jennifer said one of the major reasons marriage would work for two people living with MS is from “My Choice Medicaid,” which is a waiver program in Michigan where the government helps improve
their quality of living. This program let Jennifer live at home and not in an assisted living facility.
The moment finally came for them to go the next step.
On Jennifer’s 30th birthday, Dan decided to propose to Jennifer with a ring passed down from her family.
“We drove to the 30th birthday party and my friend Amy is in the house and I hear her scream, ‘Oh my God! What is that sparkling in the car?’ She could see my ring,” Jennifer Digmann said.
Jennifer said she was very determined to have a marriage that was just like everyone else. She refused to live with her parents and so the couple moved into a house by themselves. The couple have been married and lived together for almost ten years.
They now travel to share their love story and to raise awareness to MS.
“Our vocation isn’t just about us. We want to reach out and help other people and that why I feel like it’s a true calling,” Jennifer Digman said.
The presentation had positive reactions from the students that attended.
“I like the idea that they are able to embrace the state that they are in and they have made their own vocation about it,” A.J. Skinner said.
“It definitely gave me more information about Multiple Sclerosis,” Avery Mason said. “It’s a disease that isn’t curable and people such as the Digmanns aren’t allowing this to define them.”