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March 13th, 2012
12:35 PM ET

Outfielder: Transplant won't block my major league dreams

Editor's note: In the Human Factor, we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle – injury, illness or other hardship – they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn't know they possessed. This week, we introduce you to Kevin Jordan, a Wake Forest University baseball player who received a kidney from his coach after it was damaged by ANCA vasculitis, a rare auto immune disease that causes blood to leak into the urine.

Just before the winter of 2009-2010 I was on top of the world in almost every aspect that was important to me. I was seeing interest from numerous Major League Baseball teams, I was in the best physical shape and baseball shape possible, and along with success, I had my family and friends by my side.

Most importantly before I became sick, I felt that I had control of all these pieces of my life, but over the course of a couple of months most of my life was changed.

In the beginning, it was the multiple hospital visits, lack of control and lack of knowledge of what was going on.

By summertime I had struggled through a high school baseball season and to the Georgia state playoffs. It was around that time that we had figured out that ANCA vasculitis had damaged my kidneys and I would need dialysis to stay alive.

This was when I first questioned my future, whether I'd play baseball, whether this would consume my life, and only because of my grandparents faith I wasn't worrying about this killing me.

It took a while for me to realize that this wasn't going away like some of the sickness I've had in the past. Even knowing that it was likely that I wouldn't be playing baseball or even having a normal college experience, I made the decision to go ahead and attend the college I committed to.

The decision was based not only on the fact that my coach, Tom Walter, kept his commitment to me and didn't cut my scholarship when finding out that I was sick, but also the faith that something good would happen in my life.

That same faith kept me positive when I looked in the mirror and could barely recognize myself, while I was taking the pills I had to take and the during the dialysis treatments. I never had any idea how or when things would change for the better, so I just made attempts to take it day by day.

When the good news came that I had a donor, and it was Coach Walter, the good news began to snowball.

Since the day of the surgery my life has been returned very similar to the way it was before the illness. I have my friends, my health and my game back. Those several months of my life I'll never forget and will be a reminder of how lucky I am.

Life threw me a curve ball, but I had to pick myself up, keep going and never let the disease get in the way of pursuing my dreams of becoming a professional baseball player.


soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. MomofThreeKids

    Good luck with your dreams, but as a kidney recipient they are probably not realistic. As a kidney donor myself (almost 10 years ago), I have trouble getting everything from health insurance to life insurance because of my 'medical status.' Professional baseball teams are unlikely to recruit a player with such a medical history.

    March 13, 2012 at 16:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bobtbuilder

      Well that's not very nice. How about: As a mother of three children it's highley unlikely any man will ever find you attractive but good luck attracting them.

      March 13, 2012 at 17:24 | Report abuse |
    • Hannah

      Ewwwwwwwwwwww!!! You are bit creepy for putting such a damper on a man's life that is such an inspiration. I bet your 3 kids are going to find you a joyous source of inspiration in the face adversity. Sourpuss – you have been sucking on too many lemons.

      March 13, 2012 at 17:26 | Report abuse |
    • RdWhtNBlu

      Nothing I hate worse than pessimism! Good luck Kevin Jordan, keep reaching for your goals while 'MomofThreeKids' drives them into a river because life is so horrible. I'm so glad you can still play baseball!

      March 13, 2012 at 17:58 | Report abuse |
    • emjay

      As someone who had a diseased kidney removed (in UK) then moved to the US, have found no issues with obtaining medical/ insurance and multiple life insurance policies. Maybe your problem is other lifestyle habits

      March 13, 2012 at 18:10 | Report abuse |
    • martin

      @MOMOFTHREEKIDS- WELL, YOU ARE IGNORANT AS EVER AND HAVE NO CLUE ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. I RACED PRO MOTOCROSS FOR YEARS, AND JUST LIKE ANYSPORT, IF YOU ARE TALENTED ENOUGH, IT DOESNT MATTER IF YOU HAVE HAD A KIDNEY TRANSPLANT. IT WOULD BE SMART OF YOU DO SOME RESEARCH BEFORE YOU POST IGNORANCE

      March 13, 2012 at 18:28 | Report abuse |
    • Denver

      Best of luck to Kevin. He should gain inspiration from Carson Kainer who had a transplant in September 2011 and is currently in the minor leagues with the Cincinnatti Reds and participating in Spring Training baseball this year. Also, as far as playing pro sports, two NBA players went on to play basketball after having a kidney transplant – Sean Elliott and Alonzo Mourning.

      @MomofThreeKids – maybe you should take the time to do some simple research before knocking down someone's dreams.

      March 13, 2012 at 19:12 | Report abuse |
    • Weed

      I doubt she meant any harm. However, Denver is right. It's been done before and it will be done again.

      March 13, 2012 at 19:26 | Report abuse |
  2. crpate00

    Kevin, I hope more people like the one above keep doubting you, so you can keep proving them wrong.

    March 13, 2012 at 16:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. sallen0045

    Kevin......my husband had a kidney transplant 4 years ago at the age of 70 and is doing great. The insurance co. we had tried to drop his insurance saying he was at end stage renal failure but fortunally he worked for the State and they had a contract with the insurance co. and they couldn't drop it. He got his kidney right after with no complications. Thank God that he worked for the State or he wouldn't be here now. Gotta love the insurance companies.

    March 13, 2012 at 16:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Dano

    God has great plans for you young man. I think you know that already though :-). God Bless

    March 13, 2012 at 18:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Vivek B

    Good luck buddy, screw the naysayers, keep pushing for what you want. Mild mannered conservative people rarely achieve anything close to their dreams. To use a baseball analogy, if you're gonna go down, go down swinging. I'm rooting for you!

    March 13, 2012 at 18:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Penny Taylor

      "Go down swinging" I hope not, but my daughter had a transplant from a live donor and her doctors say definitely no sports or exertion in the heat. If she plays volley ball and lands on her stomach one time, she could lose that kidney. Not only does she have 3 children to think of, but her sister cannot give up another kidney for her. Perhaps the young man could dream another dream, there is more to life than baseball. OOOOO did I say that?

      March 14, 2012 at 01:17 | Report abuse |
  6. PositiveThoughts

    God Bless coach Walter also. He's such a great person!

    March 13, 2012 at 19:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Weed

    I just wanna say mamma baby, what's goin on mamma. I just wanna say don't ever give up on your dreams mamma baby. Put some good wood on the ball and run hard you know. Thank you, thank you very much.

    March 13, 2012 at 19:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Almasy

    As someone who has lived with ESRD for 9 years now I can relate to this young man's drive and ambition. Since I was diagnosed with a very similar auto-immune condition in 2003 as a young healthy rugby player, I had to rebuild my entire life. I now have a new wife ( because my then wife left me when I got sick), a wonderful step-son and am currently in full time law school studies at the University of Alberta here in Edmonton. I am still on dialysis but I do it at home which is a far superior method. One day I hope that someone will decide to give me the gift of a living donation but until that day I will not sit and wait around. During seven years on dialysis I have finished a Political Science degree with a 4.0 and was accepted here at U of A ( prestigious Canadian law school.). I have been able to do this despite all those who told me that it wasn't possible and that I should 'park' my ambition and accept the limited realities of life with kidney disease. Then I met someone called Shad Ireland ( please google!!) ; who is a dialysis patient who competes in Ironman triathlons. Shad told me that it was OK to be ambitious and be living with kidney disease.....and I have taken that message to heart ever since. Good luck to Kevin and God Bless Tom for his incredibly selfless gift. Just remember that a) the disease will never define you unless you let it and b) doctors dont always know the future or what you are capable of. I am living proof.

    March 13, 2012 at 19:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Mark

    Great story, very lucky young man. I'm surprised the NCAA did a smart thing by not sticking their nose in and making an issue of the Gift. In this case, there would have been a backlash like no other.

    March 13, 2012 at 20:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. carol

    Best of luck and whatever major league baseball team drafts you, t hey'll be very lucky to have you on their team. God bless Coach Walter for his selfless decision to donate one of his kidneys to you. You'll always have a connection for life!

    March 13, 2012 at 20:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. mmi16

    MLB has had a pitcher with one hand so a player with one kidney should be a walk in the park. Best of luck!

    March 14, 2012 at 04:50 | Report abuse | Reply
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  13. National Kidney Foundation

    Kevin Jordan and his wonderful coach, Tom Walter, have been role models and inspiration for so many –those who need to know that you can rise to a challenge and pursue your life dreams even with kidney disease and those who are now thinking about doing as Tom did and giving the gift of life. The National Kidney Foundation has received hundreds of calls from those interested in organ donation as a result of their example, and they have continued to help educate about the life-saving power of donation. Visit kidney.org for more.

    March 14, 2012 at 14:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. ME

    According to the video, Coach Walter got tested to be Kevin's donor without Kevin's knowledge. I would like to donate a kidney to someone I know and I would like to get tested without her knowledge so that I do not give her false hope. However, I have contacted many Kidney Transplant Coordination facilities in my area but no one seems to know how to go about assisting me. Does anybody have any information about how I go about getting tested without the recipient's knowledge? I would greatly like to meet my goal of saving someone else's life?

    March 16, 2012 at 19:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Ivana Isenberger

    Laboratory tests of blood or body fluids are performed for patients with active vasculitis. Their results will generally show signs of inflammation in the body, such as increased erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), elevated C-reactive protein (CRP), anemia, increased white blood cell count and eosinophilia. Other possible findings are elevated antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA) levels and hematuria.;::.

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