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The perfect match: Married 51 years, husband donates kidney to wife just before holidays

"She gave me her heart 50 years ago, so I will give her my kidney for the remainder."

AUSTIN, Texas — Pictures capture important moments in our lives – birthdays, graduations, anniversaries.

But ask high school sweethearts Mike and Peggy Nipper what they treasure most and you realize there is so much more.

“Everything,” said Mike Nipper. 

“What did you say?” asked Peggy. 

“Everything. Oh you wanted to hear it louder, didn't you?” he joked.

Peggy laughed.

A half a century of marriage and Peggy is still smiling. But earlier in 2019, polycystic kidney disease had pushed Peggy's body to the limit.

“You have dialysis and you have transplant – those are your choices when you get to that point,” she said.

RELATED: Former Longhorns share secrets to becoming the world's oldest married couple

Peggy lost her mother to the same disease years ago and kidney transplants can be a challenge. Some places don't take patients over 70 years old and a donor must match your blood and your tissue type.

This is why most people wait seven years – on average – before finding a match.

Peggy didn't have to wait. Her perfect match was right beside her all along.

“That was a huge miracle surprise,” said Mike.

“All these years, all these years living with my match,” said Peggy.

Mike and Peggy underwent surgery at St. David's North just before the holidays: a successful transplant from a husband to his wife.

“I'm going to count it as a Christmas present and maybe the next birthday present too,” he joked.

“You can count it as many as you want,” said Peggy. “This is the best. This one keeps on giving.”

It is often said that true love stands the test of time.

"I tell people she gave me her heart 50 years ago. So I will give her my kidney for the remainder," said Mike.

Mike and Peggy are proof that the true gift is finding the perfect match.

“Yes, in more ways than one,” said Peggy.

Every year, 5,000 people die waiting for a kidney.

Live kidney donations are more successful. St. David's has a program that pairs couples to help find successful matches more quickly.

How to become a living donor

They performed 74 kidney transplants in 2019. To learn more about how to become a living donor, go here.

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