Wake Forest coach gives player kidney
Wake Forest freshman outfielder Kevin Jordan needed a kidney transplant. None of his family members was a suitable match for a donation.
The Ultimate Sacrifice Play
For Wake Forest baseball coach Tom Walter, the decision to donate one of his kidneys to a player who hadn't yet even stepped on the field was an easy one, writes ESPN The Magazine's Ryan McGee. Story
That's when his baseball coach, Tom Walter, stepped in.
Both men are recovering at Emory Hospital in Atlanta after Walter donated a kidney to Jordan on Monday. One of the surgeons in the procedures, Dr. Kenneth Newell, said the operations went well and that both men are expected to make full recoveries.
"When we recruit our guys, we talk about family and making sacrifices for one another," Walter said before the operation. "It is something we take very seriously. I had the support of my family, Wake Forest and my team. To me it was a no-brainer."
Jordan, who was selected by the New York Yankees in the 19th round of the amateur draft in June 2010, started feeling ill in January 2010, after he had committed to Wake Forest.
It wasn't until April that Jordan was diagnosed with ANCA vasculitis, a condition in which abnormal antibodies were causing his white blood cells to attack healthy tissue in his body. It left his kidneys functioning at 8 percent by August. He still attended Wake Forest for the fall semester, despite needing 18 to 20 hours of daily dialysis.
When none of Jordan's family members was found to be a suitable match for the transplant, Walter had himself tested -- a complex process that takes five weeks.
Walter found out he was a match on Jan. 28 and told the team three days later about his decision to donate. That didn't surprise Wake Forest senior outfielder Steven Brooks one bit, according to Baseball America.
"The Tom Walter I know has been a very stand-up man at all times," Brooks said told Baseball America. "When he made a commitment to Kevin, he did it for good and bad. It may be eye-opening for other people, but not for me because that's just the kind of guy he is."
Walter went to Wake Forest in 2009 after the University of New Orleans, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, downgraded its baseball program to Division III. He's expected to be discharged from the hospital later this week and hopes to rejoin the Demon Deacons for their Feb. 18 season opener at LSU.
"If [Jordan] makes it back to the playing field, that would be a great story. But I just want him to have a normal life and have the chance to be a normal college student," Walter said, according to USA Today.
Jordan is taking the semester off to recover from the surgery. He hopes to begin light workouts later this spring and return to Wake Forest this summer, his father, Keith Jordan, told Baseball America.
For now, though, he said the priority for his son is the early stage of recovery, which includes taking short walks in the hospital Tuesday and making sure his incision doesn't become infected.
"I think he's feeling great, outside of he's still got a couple of tubes hanging out of him," Keith Jordan said, according to The Associated Press.
Keith Jordan said he isn't worrying about when his son may return to the field. "One of the things we do know for Kevin is, he's going to want to go do stuff right away," Keith Jordan said. "He's going to have to take care of himself. ... His intention is to get back on the field, so I'm sure he's going to do whatever it takes to do that."
Keith Jordan told Baseball America there's no way to describe what Walter's decision means to his family.
"It's like divine intervention when you look at everything that happened and how we even got to Wake Forest," Jordan said. "And then to meet a coach like Coach Walter and look at some of the things he had been through and done, and then to now do this, you just can't express it in words."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.