Former Ravens DL Ma'ake Kemoeatu Retires to Donate Kidney to Brother

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistSeptember 17, 2014

Chris Kemoeatu, left, and his brother Ma'ake laugh during a news conference at the University of Maryland Medical Center, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, in Baltimore. Chris Kemoeatu's football career was cut short after seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers when he learned he'd need a kidney transplant. That's when his older brother, a 99-percent kidney match and a former nose tackle for the Baltimore Ravens, stepped in, and left the Ravens in 2012.  The brothers are now recovering from their August surgeries. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

Making it to the National Football League means overcoming virtually insurmountable odds, so when a player finally does so, he should enjoy every minute of it. However, family comes first.

That's the way former Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Ma’ake Kemoeatu sees it.

Laken Litman of USA Today's FTW has the incredible story of Ma'ake, who retired in order to help his ailing brother—and former NFL offensive lineman—Chris. 

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 22:  Guard Chris Kemoeatu #68 of the Pittsburgh Steelers warming up before a game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on November 22, 2009 in Kansas City, Missouri.  The Chiefs defeated the Steelers 27-24.  (Phot
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Chris Kemoeatu started having kidney pain back when he was in eighth grade, but he managed to play football for the University of Utah and wound up landing with the Pittsburgh Steelers for seven seasons.

The pain worsened and ultimately led to Chris calling it a career after the 2011 season. A year later, Ma'ake retired in order to be with his brother.

Ma'ake spoke about the decision at a press conference at the University of Maryland Medical Center on Wednesday, per Litman: "I’ve seen him struggle and the last three years of his career, fighting through a lot because of his kidney. When we found out he needed a transplant, we had to stop our careers because his health was most important to us.”

Chris learned in early 2013 that he needed a kidney transplant because he had advanced kidney disease. Luckily, Ma'ake was a 99 percent match.

The brothers needed to lose some weight before they were able to proceed with the transplant. However, that wasn't the only obstacle delaying the operation. After the two brothers had lost enough weight, it was discovered that Chris needed surgery to fix a heart problem.

He underwent heart surgery this past June and had the kidney transplant in late August.

Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

It's a great story about the bond between two brothers. Both men were in the midst of productive careers when a health issue forced them to end their dreams of playing in the NFL. It may not have been an easy decision for either of them, but they knew that it was for the best.

The process of getting Chris a new kidney certainly wasn't easy. Between the weight loss and the heart complications, it was a long process. However, he eventually received the kidney that saved his life—all thanks to his brother.

The Kemoeatu brothers may have been close before this ordeal, but everything they've been through together must have brought them even closer.

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