ONLY ON NEWS 5: Foley firefighter donates kidney to fellow firefighter, lifelong friend

BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. (WKRG) — Saving lives just comes with the territory of being a firefighter — so if your life is in jeopardy who better to turn to? In this case: not only a firefighter but a best friend.

For as long as just about anybody can remember, Kevin Barnwell and Devery Thomas have pretty much been joined at the hip. “We were friends before we could walk really,” says Kevin.

They played ball together, joined the fire service together and were the best men at each other’s weddings. “I tell people that we are closer than most siblings,” says Devery.

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“I don’t think they have ever had an argument,” adds Kevin’s wife, Candi.

Like most friendships, tests and trials have happened over the last couple of years.

Kevin had a stroke that left him in a wheelchair, eventually, his kidneys started to fail which meant dialysis three times a week. “It takes all your energy away from you and it takes a day to recover and by the time you feel good again it’s time to go to dialysis again,” says Kevin.

But, through it all, Devery has been right by his side. “If I could get him out of that chair right now I would.”

Doctors said the only answer was a kidney transplant but waiting on a donor could take four to seven years. “When you get that kind of news you don’t have a lot of hope,” says Kevin.

But with a live donor, the transplant could happen in just a matter of months. As fate would have it, Devery was a 100% match and of course, the two friends were together when they heard the news. “My heart was exploding I was so excited,” said Kevin. “Joyful,” added Devery. “Relief that he’s going to get better.”

Kevin and Devery head into surgery on Feb. 12 in New Orleans. Among the items, they will take with them, are a special blanket full of pictures and memories and a paper prayer chain from friends, families and total strangers to cover the six-hour operation. “I’m hoping it’s going to get me the energy to start my rehab and get back to walking some,” says Kevin.

“I will be sore for a while, 8-10 weeks to getting back to my job,” says Devery who has been a Foley Firefighter for almost two decades.

It’s one thing to call someone a friend, even a “best friend” but these two live it. “They would literally lay down their life for one another,” says Candi Barnwell. “It’s amazing,” and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

To keep up with Kevin and Devery’s progress a Facebook page has been established called “Prayers for Kevin”.

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