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They’ve been divorced for 20 years. But she still donated a kidney to her ex-husband

Mary Ziegler, from St. Cloud, Minnesota, donated a kidney to ex-husband Bill Henrichs, whom she married at age 18 and divorced about 20 years ago. She said “it wasn’t even a decision” to help her former spouse.
Mary Ziegler, from St. Cloud, Minnesota, donated a kidney to ex-husband Bill Henrichs, whom she married at age 18 and divorced about 20 years ago. She said “it wasn’t even a decision” to help her former spouse. Screengrab from Fox9

When Mary Ziegler learned her ex-husband was in need of a kidney donation, the 62-year-old woman says she didn’t hesitate to help.

“For me, it wasn’t even a decision,” Ziegler told Fox9. “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.”

Ziegler and Bill Henrichs tied the knot when they turned 18, according to “Inside Edition.” They had two children and divorced after 24 years of marriage. Despite the split two decades ago, Ziegler said they have maintained a good relationship for their families as they both live in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

“We grew up together. We were always really good friends,” she told “Inside Edition.” “It sounds kind of weird, but now I almost feel like he’s my brother because we’ve known each other so long.”

We follow as Natalie Frese, wife of The Star’s David Frese, donates her left kidney to Ty Poell, her boss and principal at Tonganoxie Elementary School. Natalie, a second-grade teacher at the school, found out she was a donor match last fall.

Their bond stayed strong even when Henrichs married another woman named Linda. Ziegler told Fox9 that Henrichs “never left our family” — instead saying that it more felt like his new wife “joined it.”

It was all part of the plan to keep their family from splintering during the divorce, according to the St. Cloud Times.

“We kind of made a commitment at the time to get along,” Henrichs told the newspaper. “And to not do anything poorly to each other and to the kids. You know all those bad divorce things, we agreed not to do that.”

Henrichs “found out he needed a kidney transplant” last February, according to Fox9. Ziegler — who is a “universal donor” with blood type O — said the news “was like feeling a tap on my shoulder” urging her to donate her kidney, according to “Inside Edition.”

“How could I not?” she asked “Inside Edition.”

Heather Winfree used baseball cards to tell her husband with kidney disease, Steve Winfree, that she is a kidney donor match. She hopes their story will bring more awareness to living kidney donations.

Henrichs finally got that much-needed kidney from his ex-wife in October, according to the St. Cloud Times. As he recovers, the man said he’s still “got a little bit of a road ahead.” But that hasn’t stopped people from asking him about who gave him the life-saving donation.

“I kind of avoided mentioning who it was,” Henrichs told the St. Cloud Times. “But I could tell that they kind of knew because they would come back and keep asking ... because they wanted to hear it.”

Ziegler told Fox9 that she hopes the story shows how people can fall out of love — but still have respect for each other.

“If this story changes one person’s actions or attitude towards their ex,” she told Fox 9, “it’ll be all worth it.”

Mary Frances Lembo gave her kidney to her friend and here is her message.

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