Baseball Coach Donates Kidney to Player

10:32 AM, Feb 9, 2011   |    comments
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Editor's Note: The complete story airs Wednesday morning at 6:30 a.m. on 11Alive News Today.

ATLANTA -- Until now the most important days of Kevin Jordan's life have mainly been about baseball. All of that changed Monday when he got a life-saving kidney from none other than his head baseball coach.

A natural athlete from Vienna, Ga., he was a hot prospect noticed by major league scouts early on at Northside High School.

His senior year he committed to Wake Forest University, awaiting the draft. But suddenly, Kevin's strength and energy started giving way.

"I wasn't gonna sit out the playoffs, even though it was 95 degrees and I'm tired," Jordan said. "But it just felt so different."

Jordan was diagnosed with ANCA vasculitis, an immune system disease found in just 1 in 55,000 people. In Kevin's case, it attacked his kidneys.

And then, Kevin was selected by the New York Yankees in the 19th round of the MLB draft. That day he was at the hospital preparing for dialysis.

"I had, I don't know how many text messages from friends, coaches and I didn't look at any of them, " Jordan said. "It's hard enough explaining why I'm not playing for the Yankees right now."

His kidneys were both far below functioning level. His blood type is O-Negative, the rarest in finding a suitable match. But Kevin Jordan got a brand new kidney, and baseball is the reason why.

Help from Across the Dugout

"I had my tonsils out when I was eight years old. I had a broken nose once, but nothing, nothing serious, " Walter said.

Tom Walter has a track record of reaching out. He coached at the University of New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina came through and helped rebuild numerous houses with his players the following year. He graduated all but one student in four years at that school. When Kevin Jordan walked in for a physical this fall his new coach at Wake Forest was stunned.

"We just said to each other, 'Oh my God. I cannot believe what this young man's been through the last six months of his life,'" Walter said. 

During Kevin's first semester of college, he had to live by himself. He went through dialysis every night while he slept.

Then came the news. No one in his family was a match.

That's when his coach stepped in.

Walter offered to donate if he was a match; numerous tests later, he found out he could indeed be Kevin's donor.

"I talked to him over the phone, and I could hear him grin from ear to ear. He was almost giddy," Walter said.

"It's like hitting a home run," said Jordan about hearing the news. "It's probably the best mental feeling, like, 'OK, I might be getting this over with.'"

"It's Like Hitting a Home Run"

On Monday, the countdown was over. The day had arrived. The two men who had only known each other for a short time are became forever entwined.

"I was meant to be here at this time in my life, and Kevin was meant to be here with me," Walter said.

Two hours later, doctors removed his kidney and bring it to his player. 

The operation has been a success. Both Walter and Jordan are at the hospital recovering. And of course, the player cannot wait to get back on the field. He will likely be able to start training in two months; he hopes he can take the field for his coach -- his donor -- next spring.

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