WFU coach donates kidney to player
Walter focused on Jordan having chance to live a ‘normal life’
Amy Farnum, NCAA.com
It didn’t take long for Tom Walter to decide what he had to do.
Last August, the Wake Forest University head baseball coach sat and listened to doctor explain what freshman Kevin Jordan had been going through during the previous few months. After about 10 minutes of hearing of Jordan’s suffering due to ANCA vasculitis, a type of autoimmune swelling caused by autoantibodies, Walter decided immediately that if he could help his player, he would.
The disease was causing kidney failure for Jordan, who still was determined to attend classes at Wake Forest, and participate, although limited, in fall baseball practice despite undergoing kidney dialysis nightly in his dorm room.
Doctors began looking for a kidney donor starting with Jordan’s family members but his mother and brother were not matches.
“I didn’t want Kevin to wait one more day,” Walter said.
Coach Walter volunteered to be tested, and while attending the Demon Deacons’ first day of spring practice on Jan. 28 he got a call that his kidney was a match for Jordan. He told the team of the decision a few days later, and but they were not completely surprised by the news.
“Tom Walter would do anything for one of his players or former players,” WFU senior outfielder Steven Brooks said. “It was only surprising because it was such a major surgery. He’s always willing to help his players in whatever way he can.”
The kidney transplant was performed on Feb. 7 at the Emory Transplant Center in Atlanta with Dr. Kenneth Newell and Dr. Alan Kirk as the lead surgeons.
“Two days ago, Kevin had kidney failure, and one day and 23 hours ago, he didn’t,” Dr. Kirk said during news conference held Wednesday morning. “That’s the really remarkable thing about this situation he was in. In a short period of time, the generosity of one individual can change from a situation that is quite devastating to one that is quite hopeful.”
Newell commented how remarkable that the coach and player were a match that actually resulted in a transplant.
“It is quite rare this worked out this way,” Dr. Newell said. “Last year, we had about 850 people call and express interest to be considered as a kidney donor for someone. Of those people, we evaluated about 150 and only about half of those went on to be transplants. There are all sorts of reasons for that, but if you go back to the point where Coach Walter first called, the odds are about 15 percent that you actually get to this stage.”
Both Jordan and Walter, 42, are recovering well from the surgeries. Walter is set to return to Winston-Salem on Thursday, and will check in with his team on Friday, although he will watch practice from the stands. Doctors expect Walter to attend the Demon Deacons’ season-opening game on Feb. 18 at LSU, and say it to take about a month before he is fully recovered from the donation surgery.
“I know he won’t be at 100 percent for a while, but the coaches have really trained us to be accountable to ourselves,” Brooks said. “Although it is great to have ‘Walt’ there, he’s taught us that you have to give 100 percent all the time, not just when the coaches are around.”
Jordan --who was drafted in the 19th round last year by the New York Yankees -- feels great, but is still sore from the surgery, and is hoping to be released from the hospital on Friday and return to his parents’ home in Columbus, Ga. Doctors expect Jordan to be swinging a bat again in about eight weeks, although Walter just wants his young player to lead a long, healthy life.
“Baseball is not the No. 1 priority in our lives,” Walter said. “This has never been about getting Kevin back on the field. This has always been about the chance for Kevin to have a normal life. The day he gets back on the field will be a great day for all of us. I truly hope you’re all back for that because that’s going to be the real story.”
For now, the story is one of a selfless act of generosity that has left Jordan practically speechless when trying to express his gratitude.
“I’m really thankful,” Jordan said. “I don’t think I have the words for it my vocabulary.”
Need to Know
• Nova Southeastern is 5-0 for the first time in program history following a 9-7 victory at Barry University on Feb. 8. Junior Areo Regoli belted a game-winning two-run single in the ninth inning to lift the Sharks from a 7-6 deficit. In the third inning, Regoli blasted his first collegiate grand slam to give the Sharks an early 4-0 lead. NSU will look to remain perfect on the season with a home game against Palm Beach Atlantic on Feb. 9.
• Georgia College’s Richard Pirkle played a key role in the Bobcats’ series win at No. 5 Tampa last weekend, and garnered Peach Belt Conference Player of the Week for his efforts. The senior catcher batted .462 with two home runs and five runs scored. Pirkle compiled a 1.077 slugging percentage in the series, and scored the game-winning run in Sunday’s victory.
• West Florida moved up to No. 16 in the latest Collegiate Baseball Division II poll after jumping out to a 4-0 start with doubleheader sweeps of Montevallo and then-No. 29 Rollins last week. It is the highest ranking for the Argonauts since 2007. UWF outscored foes 45-11 behind the offensive prowess of senior right fielder Greg Pron and junior first baseman Kenny Stalls, who each hit over .600 for the week. On the mound, three of the Argos’ starting pitchers turned in scoreless outings, including a one-hit, seven-inning performance by senior Jason Postill.
• Defending MIAA Champion and 2010 NCAA Division II World Series qualifier Central Missouri was selected as unanimous preseason No. 1 in the 2011 MIAA Baseball Coaches Poll on Monday. The Mules will begin their 2011 season at Ouachita Baptist for a three-game series starting Feb. 18.
• Mount OIive’s Michael Knox – the nation’s top returning home run hitter – belted two round-trippers in the Trojans’ season-opening series sweep against Lenior-Rhyne last weekend.
• Western Oregon junior right-hander Kirk Lind earned Great Northwest Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Week after tossing 2.2 innings of relief to close a 7-5 victory over No. 2 UC San Diego last weekend. Lind, a native of Vancouver, Wash., was credited with the save against the Tritons.
• Cal Poly Pomona outfielder Travis Taijeron propelled the Broncos to a 4-0 start last weekend as he batted .500 with six runs scored, seven RBI and a home run. Taijeron’s highlight of the week was a 5-for-5 outing with four runs scored, four RBI and two doubles against Cal State L.A.
• Senior catcher Ryan Morrow of St. Mary’s (Texas) was one base short of hitting for the cycle in a 9-3 defeat of Newman on Feb. 6, hitting a single, two doubles and a home run as the Rattlers swept the series. He was named Heartland Conference Player of the Week for his stellar play.