‘He’s everything to me’: Blytheville best friends now share a kidney

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Two best friends from Blytheville, Arkansas are proving again and again that they don’t want to live life without each other.

Chavis Spann and James Rogers met at the age of 6 at the playground, and haven’t looked back.

Spann was the best man in Rogers’ wedding. They graduated together from Blytheville High School. They even took a cruise to Mexico earlier this year along with their significant others.

“We've got one of the deepest friendships. He’s not just my friend. He’s like my brother. He’s everything to me,” James said.

He meant so much that when they were 11, Rogers even saved his best friend from drowning.

“I hit his foot and I was fighting for my life," Chavis said. "And at first he thought I was playing and started kicking me. But when I was serious, he turned around, got back in the water and pulled me out.”

Spann also spent eight years in prison. He’s now a preacher and started his own church in Gosnell, Arkansas, but says his friend James was one of the only people who visited him consistently.

Spann says he doesn’t feel like he owes his best friend anything. But he does always want him around.

That got tougher 17 years ago, when Rogers was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease. Since 2014, he’s had to do dialysis nine hours a day, seven days a week.

"It was mentally stressful, physically stressful. It was tough,” he said.

His doctor told him the only way out would be to find a donor.

"Give me five people you’d think would give you a kidney," Rogers said. "I picked my two brothers, my mother, my sister and my best friend Chavis.”

And what do you know — none of his blood relatives were a match.

But Spann was.

"I’ve seen James go through enough, and to be his friend and to be able to do something about it, and not doing anything about it, that’s not love. So I really wanted to,” Spann said. “I was afforded the opportunity to help my best friend continue to live, so no matter what I had to go through, I was cool with it."

But there was a problem. Spann was overweight. It took him another four years to get approved.

With 50 lbs. gone, the two best friends went in to surgery at Methodist Hospital in Memphis together — one giving his kidney, the other receiving it.

The surgeries were a success.

"July 9, it just was the greatest day of my life because me and Chavis was able to go in and get a kidney transplant,” Rogers said.

It’s a new beginning for Rogers, his wife, his three daughters and, of course, his best friend Chavis and his fiance.

For now they’re all together in a hospital recovery room. One won’t leave without the other, just as they’ve done throughout life.

"He’s everything to me," Rogers said.

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