Tom Walter
Living Donor


I am Kevin Jordan's college baseball coach at Wake Forest University. August 25th, 2010 was Kevin's first day of class as a freshman student. Normally, that alone would be the most noteworthy event of an 18 year olds life. For Kevin, however, his first class at Wake wasn't even the most noteworthy event of the day. It was also the day he and his parents were told "Kevin will need a kidney transplant". Up to that point they thought medication would reverse the affects of the terrible disease that started attacking his kidneys 8 months earlier.

 

I was with Kevin and his parents that day when they met Kevin's new Doctor at Wake Forest Baptist. Dr. Freedman talked for 15 minutes describing everything Kevin had gone through since January. Kevin had gone from 198 pounds to 158 pounds. His kidney function was down to 8% and declining. He took 35 pills a day. Dr. Freedman talked about what the next few months/years had in store for Kevin. He would be hooked to a dialysis machine from 11pm to 8am. He couldn't have a roommate. He couldn't practice or play the game he loved. I was stunned. ALL this PLUS starting his freshman year at Wake Forest 300 miles from home. It dawned on me the simple fact Kevin even showed up on our campus made him the most courageous man I have ever known. The doctor talked about the donor process. If a suitable donor couldn't be found, it may be 4 years or more waiting for the phone to ring. He said the biggest factor in being a suitable donor was blood type. Kevin was O negative, and I thought to myself...I am O positive. I made a decision right then, if I could...it was my responsibility to help. While walking down the hall of the hospital immediately after that first appointment, I privately told Kevin's father, "Mr. Jordan, Kevin and I are a blood match. If you want me to get tested to see if I am a match, just say the word." He replied between he, his wife and Kevin's brother they had it covered.

 

Over the ensuing weeks I learned that 18 people in the United States die every day waiting for an organ. I watched silently as Kevin was told his Dad couldn't donate because of high blood pressure. Six weeks later his Mom was eliminated as a candidate. Meanwhile, Kevin had a condition shared by 15% of the population. His body did not release toxins as easily as most. 9 hours hooked to the machine at night wasn't enough. Kevin would have to go to class with fluid in his belly and get 2 more 4 hour cycles during waking hours.

 

As this unfolded, I watched Kevin go to class every day. He always had a smile on his face. He never complained or loathed in self-pity. My admiration for him continued to grow. On December 12th Kevin's Dad called. Kevin's brother could not donate, would I still be willing to be tested. My response was 4 words, "who do I call?"

 

On February 7th, Kevin received my kidney. The act has been called heroic, courageous, selfless, and a hundred other million dollar words. For me, it was simply the right thing to do. I can assure you of three things:

 

1. Kevin is a thousand times the hero that I am.

 

2. What I have received in return is exponentially greater in value than what I gave.

 

3. I would make the same decision 100 times out of 100.

 

Three days after surgery I was home and went to practice. 11 days after surgery I was coaching our team in Louisiana. 3 weeks after surgery I was on a treadmill. 3 months after surgery I considered myself "back to normal". Most of all, I am happy to report that Kevin is doing wonderfully. He is playing ball again. His creatine and protein levels are better than expected. He has a second chance to live his dream. I couldn't be happier for him or prouder of him.

 

Finally, I want to thank my Mom, my sister, my Dad, Ron Wellman and Mike Buddie at Wake Forest, my staff (Dennis Healy, Bill Cilento and Grant Achilles) and my team. Their support has been unwavering and utterly amazing. Without each of them none of this would have been possible. Words will never be able to express my gratitude. I love you all very much.

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