Ryan Ramirez and his wife, Katie Murray Ramirez, have a deep connection most newlyweds don't share.

First he gave her his heart. Then he gave her his kidney.

But only the kidney required a transplant.

"He completely saved my life," said Katie.

It all began when, as a child, Katie — whose family owns Murray Family Farms — was diagnosed with kidney failure. She started dialysis at 18 and by 25, was a virtual slave to the machines for eight hours a day, three days a week.

Even then, she was sick a lot, tired, unable to work more than four hours a day. Hospitals and medical facilities and surgeries were regular companions.

Then in 2012, after meeting and talking on an online dating site, Katie and Ryan decided to get together for lunch at Panera Bread.

That "first date" lasted six hours.

"Needless to say, we clicked," Ryan said. And when he drove away, he knew he would marry Katie.

"I knew it from that day," he recalled. "And it was kind of magical from then on. Within six months of us dating I began being tested to see if I was a compatible donor for her. That's how head-over-heels I was."

Vickie Murray, Katie's mom, recalled a story that has become part of family lore: After that first six-hour date, Ryan headed to the slopes for a snowboarding weekend.

"He wrote on a piece of paper, 'If I should die, I want to donate my organs — and I want to make sure Katie Murray gets a kidney,'" Katie's mom remembered. "He took a picture of the note with his phone and sent it to Katie.

"Oh, my God!" Mrs. Murray said, remembering that extraordinary gesture. "Katie just met this guy. I thought, 'He's a keeper.'"

No one in Katie's family had been a match, so it was a bit of a long shot. But not only was Ryan a match, even the fact that both are tall makes Ryan a better match.

On Dec. 3, 2013, after much testing of both patients, the transplant took place. Ryan bounced back quickly and was back on his snowboard within three months. Katie had a couple of "hiccups," but was soon recuperating at home.

They call the date of the transplant their kidney-versary.

"I still get a little emotional when she says I saved her life," Ryan said. "Every year on our kidney-versary, I'm usually the one crying tears of joy."

Ryan proposed the following February, and on March 18, 2017, they were married in the backyard of the Murray family farmhouse.

"I know they're going to have beautiful babies together," said Vickie Murray, sounding just like an aspiring grandmother. "They're talking about it. Of course I would be thrilled."

Meanwhile, both husband and wife are working at the Murray family business at the foot of the Tehachapi Mountains east of Bakersfield.

The power of the transplant has stayed with them.

"It's been life-changing, completely life-changing for us," Katie said, gazing at her husband with the kind of love and adoration many couples can only wish for.

No longer is she tethered to a dialysis machine. No longer must she work half-shifts because there is no energy to spare.

And the experience of cheating death means they take nothing for granted. They don't let petty issues get in the way of their daily joy and gratitude.

"There's no room for frivolous fights," Ryan said.

For a moment the pair go quiet, as if once again recognizing the power and wonder of what they have experienced together.

"It's something you can't say thank you enough for," Katie said. "We'll spend the rest of our lives celebrating."

Then turning to her husband, she smiles.

"Thank you, Ryan, for everything."

Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.

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