Ma’ake Kemoeatu gives brother Chris the gift of life


We all need a feel-good story about football players right now, and what better way than for family to matter more than the regional rivalries, and for something more than the game to overcome.

Former Steelers guard Chris Kemoeatu, who had to retire from the game because of kidney problems, got the gift of life from his brother, former Ravens defensive tackle Ma’ake in the form of a kidney donation.

Everyone jokes about me having a Ravens’ kidney,” Chris said, via Mike Klingaman of the Baltimore Sun. “But hey, I can live with that.”

It beats the alternative.

Ma’ake joked that his little brother (relative) “owes me a lot of steak dinners,” but their sheer size made the surgery more complicated than most.

Chris had to have a heart surgery beforehand to make the procedure possible, and both men checked into the hospital weighing 345 pounds.

“It was the largest normal kidney I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Dr. Stephen Bartlett, the hospital’s surgeon-in-chief. “I felt like somebody had thrown me a small football.”

But this story is far beyond football, about the lengths a family will go to look after one another.

“I’m the oldest of seven kids and it’s my responsibility to take care of the rest,” Ma’ake said. “If my siblings need blood, it will be my blood. If they need a kidney, it will be my kidney. We both stopped our careers for this, but I’d have done it even if I was a rookie with the Ravens. I have to lead by example.”

Hopefully, more people in his old line of work will take on that same challenge.