At Home With Sean & Marjan Daneshmand
He’s a noted perinatologist, an ob-gyn specializing in high-risk, premature births. She’s a successful attorney with her own practice. Together they founded the nonprofit Miracle Babies to provide financial aid and emotional support to families with critically ill newborns in neonatal intensive care. Their own daughter, Natalie, was a “preemie,” a tiny baby who’s now a lively, joyful 10-year-old.
So what do Sean and Marjan Daneshmand do when they have a bit of downtime? They stay home. It’s easy to see why. Their Tuscan retreat, perched on a hilltop overlooking Rancho Santa Fe, is a private, peaceful oasis where they can relax and recharge. “We fell in love with the outdoors,” says Marjan of their decision three years ago to buy the two-acre property, landscaped with palm trees and eucalyptus. The family room opens onto an expansive travertine-tiled terrace with comfortable couches, an entertainment island with a barbecue, and a vanishing-edge pool.
Below is a garden filled with fruit trees — passion fruit, pomegranate, and plum; above, stairs and a path lead to a romantic gazebo. The Daneshmands often dine al fresco at the long wooden table hung with chandeliers that can be switched out according to the occasion. On this day, the crystal fixtures are pink, a feminine touch from Marjan’s birthday party. The couple loves to host family and friends, and fundraisers for Miracle Babies.
They also take long walks in their neighborhood, visit the farmer’s market for fresh produce, and take yoga classes at Rancho Valencia where they are members. Mille Fleurs and Dolce Pane e Vino are local favorites.
The Daneshmands, who are Persian, are especially grateful for what they have. Their families lost everything — their homes, possessions, and successful businesses — during the Iranian Revolution. Marjan, her mother, and younger sister posed as Pakistanis to flee Iran. Her father and older sister were smuggled out of the country in the back of a pickup truck only to be apprehended. Her father had to pay off police to win their freedom.
During the Iran hostage crisis, Sean’s family fled to Rome, where as a Middle Eastern boy who didn’t speak English, he often was a target of bullies. “I was literally beaten up every other day,” he recalls. “Kids are cruel at that age.”
Eventually, their families found their way to the United States, where Sean grew up in Los Angeles, and Marjan, in La Jolla. (Her family, headed to Toronto where they had relatives, stopped in La Jolla to visit an aunt, and never left.) A graduate of UCLA and New York Medical College, Sean met Marjan at a wedding while doing a fellowship at UCSD. She earned her degrees at UCSD and the California Western School of Law.
Their life experiences have taught them love and respect for their parents who sacrificed so much so their children would have a better life. “It was a sacrifice for our safety and education,” says Marjan. “And for opportunity and freedom?” they are asked. “Freedom, yes,” Sean replies. “Freedom is the main thing.”
“You appreciate what you have, the opportunities you can take advantage of in this country, it’s amazing,” says Marjan. Adds Sean: “It also teaches you that nothing is consistent. Nothing remains constant.”
Sean, recognized as a CNN Hero for his work with Miracle Babies, is committed to helping families facing the financial and emotional challenges of caring for premature or sick newborns. Miracle Babies partners with the Northside Hospital Foundation in Atlanta, and receives local support from Mary Birch Hospital for Women. Its “Healthy Women Healthy Children” program, providing pregnant women with fitness, nutrition, and education, is offered at the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA in collaboration with federally funded community clinics and doctors. No matter what one’s circumstances in life, Sean has learned “Kids are the common denominator. Kids are the glue for all of us. All of life is about the end goal — a wonderful life for our children.”
The San Diego Wine Affair on April 18 at Palomar Airport will benefit Miracle Babies, as will a 5K run on Sunday, May 3, at San Diego’s Embarcadero Marina Park. The organization’s signature gala, this year with the theme “Moulin Rouge,” is set for October 10 at The Grand Del Mar. (www.miraclebabies.org) ANDREA NAVERSEN