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Naval Airman Timothy Dixon holds a picture of his sister Star and his nephew Marvin at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, last week. Dixon gave his sister a kidney in October.
Naval Airman Timothy Dixon holds a picture of his sister Star and his nephew Marvin at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, last week. Dixon gave his sister a kidney in October. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Most people don’t get to see what their left kidney looks like.

Seaman Tim Dixon got an eyeful of his in a parting shot snapped by staff members at Westchester Medical Center in New York before they transplanted the organ in Dixon’s sister, Star.

“It doesn’t look like the pictures, really. It looked like a fist,” said Dixon, 23, an airman with the Warlords (HSL 51), a combat-ready helicopter squadron at Naval Air Facility Atsugi.

The important thing was that the organ worked. And now, after the transplant in October, his 22-year-old sister is alive and mending after battling kidney disease for three years.

Dixon says he’s almost 100 percent and the scarring is minimal, but with only one kidney to regulate fluids in the body, his bathroom trips are far more frequent.

“I wasn’t all that worried about the transplant,” Dixon said. “We were all worried about Star.”

The situation was stressful — Dixon was out of leave and was due back to Japan before he had the surgery. A flurry of frantic phone calls to a New York veterans’ service agency, a mayor and a local representative resulted in an extension, he said.

Star was in end-stage renal failure, Dixon said. Diagnosed with lupus at 19, she was hospitalized for almost a year. Her lungs were bleeding, her major organs were failing and the dialysis was draining the energy out of her, Dixon said. Star has a young son, Marvin, who is 1½.

The siblings are two of 10 kids from the Bronx, N.Y. Dixon and Star are close in age, as well as everything else. Tim ran track. Star ran track. Tim played baseball. Star played baseball. Tim played football. Star was a cheerleader at his games.

“She was always like, “He’s doing it — why can’t I?’” Dixon said. “She’s just that kind of person.”

Once Star got sick, Dixon, as the overprotective brother, didn’t like that she was getting transfusions from other people. Turns out, the siblings had more in common than hobbies — they had compatible blood and tissue types, which meant Dixon could give Star one of his two kidneys.

“It’s hard to see someone in your family suffer like that,” Dixon said. “If there was something I could do, I wanted to do it.”

Kidneys are by far the most transplanted organs in the United States, with more than 16,000 surgeries performed every year.

The operations usually “take,” as successful transplants from living donors run a 97 percent rate and those from cadavers run 94 percent.

Kidneys also are the most wanted organs, with an estimated 65,000 people on the waiting list.

For his part, fellow Warlord airman Ryan Rhody is duly impressed by his colleague’s actions, he said.

“He really saved his sister’s life — that’s a pretty big deal,” Rhody said. “I’m really proud of him. All of my family knows what he did.”

Dixon demurred the compliments, saying that it was no big deal.

“I just did what anyone in my family would do for me.”

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