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January 02, 2019 02:44 PM

While their 24-year marriage has long been over, Mary Zeigler helped her former husband, Bill Henrichs, when he needed it most.

Zeigler and Henrichs, from Minnesota, met when they were just 14 years old, and married four years later when they turned 18. The pair went on to raise two children together, Matthew and Macy, but as the years passed by, the love they felt for each other began to fade, the former couple told FOX 9.

“Bill’s very cerebral,” Zeigler, 62, said. “I’m very athletic and we just, you know, had less and less things in common.”

Over time, the differences between the couple were just too great for them to ignore.

“When you’re 18, you’re one person. And when you’re 40, you’re an entirely different person,” Zeigler told Inside Edition. “That’s what happened to us. We got older and we became totally different people.”

After 24 years of marriage, the couple divorced amicably in the hopes of making the process easier for their children. The couple made it a point to remain friends with each other even after the dust had settled.

Mary Zeigler and Bill Henrichs

Henrichs soon remarried, and his second wife, Linda, joined the family.

“I trust them both. I trust after so many years of getting along, working through it, I know that there’s not gonna be any strange issues,” Henrichs told FOX 9 of Linda and Zeigler’s friendship. “We’ll just get together and get it done.”

But the ongoing friendship between the two former spouses would have life-altering implications, some 20 years after their divorce. Henrichs found out he was in need of a kidney in February 2018, and while dozens of people were tested as his health declined, no match was found.

After seeing the difficulties Henrichs faced, Zeigler, whose blood is type O, stepped forward to get tested as a transplant candidate — and doctors discovered she was a perfect match.

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“For me, it wasn’t even a decision,” Zeigler told the news station about choosing to undergo an operation to save her ex-husband. “It was kinda like him calling up and saying, ‘can you come over and help us rake leaves?’ That’s how I think of it.”

The dual surgeries in October were a success, and Zeigler hopes other couples may see the positive things that can happen when they keep relationships friendly between their exes.

“There were times we might not have agreed but we kept it between us. It was never bringing the children into it,” Zeigler said of the unique experience. “If this story changes one person’s actions or attitude towards their ex, it’ll be all worth it.”

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