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Petty Officer 2nd Class Kemo Devore, who works in the Port Operations department at Naval Station Rota, Spain, holds a photo of his sister, Kimberly Devore. He donated a kidney in August to his sister in the United States. Both have recovered from the surgery and are doing well.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Kemo Devore, who works in the Port Operations department at Naval Station Rota, Spain, holds a photo of his sister, Kimberly Devore. He donated a kidney in August to his sister in the United States. Both have recovered from the surgery and are doing well. (Scott Schonauer / S&S)

NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain — Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kemo Devore and his sister weren’t always close.

When they were growing up in little Estill, S.C., Kimberly Devore said her big brother didn’t want to be around her.

He said that’s because she was “annoying.”

But this past August, those childhood differences melted away like a snowfall in May. Kemo gave his little sister the best gift he could ever give: one of his kidneys.

“I had no questions, no doubt in my mind,” said Kemo, 23, who is stationed at Naval Station Rota. “I still don’t have any.”

Disease had caused Kimberly Devore’s kidneys to stop working properly.

If her brother had not donated one of his, she probably would have waited a year or longer to get one from a matching donor.

The kidneys — a pair of reddish-brown organs behind the liver and stomach — primarily remove waste from the body through urine production.

They are the No. 1 organ donation needed with nearly 60,000 people requiring a new one each year, according to the United Network of Organ Sharing. More than 80,000 men, women and children in the United States need an organ or tissue transplant, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Only one out of three will receive the transplant because of the shortage of donors, according to the foundation.

Without a properly functioning kidney, Kimberly, 19, had to undergo dialysis treatments three to four times a week. She dreaded the procedure, which could take several hours to complete.

Last year, their mother told Kemo what his sister needed.

“After that, I was like, ‘OK. Well, whenever she needs one, I’ll give her one. Just like that. I didn’t need to think about it. ... I had my mind made up because I love my sister.”

His command helped arrange his travel to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, sending him on temporary-duty orders.

Doctors told him about the risks and the pain of the procedure, but he was steadfast. It wasn’t until he put on his gown Aug. 20 and waited for the operation that the whole ordeal really sunk in.

As he lay down and watched the doctors walk by in the hallway, he said he got nervous.

“I’m thinking to myself, ‘They’re about to cut me open. … They’re about to take a knife or whatever and cut me. …’ But I’m like, ‘I’ve got to do it. I’ve got to do it.’ ”

Moments later, he got a shot to deaden the pain.

“It started burning,” he said. “I was like, ‘God dog, this thing is hot.’ The next thing I remember I was in the operating room. The lady asked me what kind of music I like. I told her, ‘R&B and rap.’ The next thing I know ... a big bright light is in my face.

“The next thing I remember is the lady is saying, ‘Wake up. Wake up.’ ”

His kidney worked perfectly inside his sister. Doctors told him it was like “putting batteries into a watch.”

In the recovery room, they saw each other.

“I love you,” he told her.

“I love you, too,” she said.

But the process was far from over.

The booklets that warned him about the pain did not lie. Doctors had cut through his abdominal muscles and moved his intestines out of the way so they could take out the kidney. When he got home, he couldn’t sleep in the bed because of the pain.

“I cried the first night I got home,” he said. “I tried to lie in the bed and my body couldn’t be straight lying down. I had to sit up in the recliner and go to sleep for like a week straight. I was hurting.”

The pain is mostly gone now, and both are expected to fully recover. Kimberly is back at work as a cashier at a Target department store in South Carolina. Kemo, an operations specialist with Port Operations, is back in Spain. He started work in October but still cannot do any heavy lifting for a while longer.

Kimberly said she hasn’t felt this well in a long time.

“I feel real good,” she said by telephone in December. “I’m fine.”

The friendly chiding between the rival siblings is back, too.

If his sister makes a smart comment, he jokes, “I’ll take my kidney back!”

Both said they have never been closer. They have a bond few brothers and sisters have. Wherever she goes, she will always have a part of him with her.

“You can’t get any closer than that,” Kemo said.

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