TAMPA (FOX13) - Debbie and Bill Ismer's love story begins bedside at Tampa General Hospital.
"I was a patient. I came to Tampa General for an evaluation for a heart transplant," Bill said.
Bill had just suffered a massive heart attack. He was given 48 hours to live. But something, or rather someone, kept him hanging on for nearly a year while waiting for a new heart. His nurse.
"She was very attractive and she had time for me," he smiled.
After months of living in TGH's transplant unit, Bill got the call he was fighting for.
"When I heard there was a heart for me, I was sad because I knew someone had died. I knew that it encompassed a responsibility that God had given me. To live not for myself, but for Him," Bill said.
The first part of that was making their love official. The two married six months after bill got a new heart.
"We prayed out in the rose garden. And we prayed, 'God, If you could just give us one year. Or two years, we'll make the best of our lives to serve you. And now those two years have turned into sixteen," he smiled.
Tens years into their marriage, the Ismers were dealt a devastating blow. Debbie needed a kidney transplant, due to a deteriorating pre-existing disease.
"My friend that I worked with for years here insisted that she was going to be my donor," Debbie said.
She was a perfect match. Years later, both Debbie and Bill are healthy and thriving.
"It's just immeasurable the blessing that can come from one person having a transplant that works, and you don't have a lot of side effects. Much less two," Debbie said.
Today, they're paying it forward in the place where it all began. Bill plays piano to the hospital's critical care patients, a gift he picked up post-transplant with no formal training. Debbie tags along, too, keeping people company and mentoring new transplant patients.
To them, the hospital feels like home. It's a place where the worst news turned into an unforeseeable blessing.
"This really is God's work. It's a miracle that we found each other," Bill smiled.
The Ismers will celebrate their 16th wedding anniversary in April.