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An Inspiration in Old Gold and Black

Apr 1, 2014, 2:31 PM EDT

In the top of the sixth inning of the Notre Dame baseball game, Wake Forest pinch hit Kevin Jordan for Kelly Garrett with the Demon Deacons up 6-4 on the Fighting Irish. Looking at the box score, you would think he struck out and his at bat meant nothing but a missed opportunity. However, if you knew his story and his relationship with Wake Forest coach, Tom Walter, then it would be very clear that this at bat almost did not happen for the redshirt junior.

In his senior year of high school, Jordan was at the top of his game, ranked 43rd in the country by Perfect Game. Projected as a first round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, Jordan seemed as though he had everything going his way. Little did he know, his luck was about to run out.

In the winter of 2010, Jordan began to notice that he could not get rid of the flu, and he eventually lost 30 pounds because of it. As a senior in high school, he went to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta to find out what was causing this. The doctors there soon discovered Kevin Jordan’s kidneys were only functioning at approximately 15 to 20 percent. That spring, Jordan was diagnosed with ANCA vascuilitis – a swelling of the kidneys that is brought on by antibodies and can lead to kidney failure.

Jordan was first placed on dialysis for three days a week in the beginning and then daily later along. He was also administered steroids and chemotherapy treatments. While in the hospital on dialysis, Jordan was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 19th round of the 2010 MLB Draft. Going to the Majors was the least of Jordan’s worries. In July of 2010, he was informed by doctors that the treatment was not working and he was going to need a kidney transplant with his current kidney function at less than ten percent.

After both his parents and brother were tested to see if they were a match in order to donate a kidney to Kevin, he was placed on the National Organ Donor Wait List; which has an average wait time of four to five years.

If Kevin stopped kidney dialysis treatments, his survival would be measured in weeks to months. Kevin Jordan seemed as though he was out of options, that is, until he discovered that he had a “guardian angel” looking over him.

Tom Walter only met Kevin once; when he was on his official visit to Wake Forest. Yet when he heard about Kevin’s situation, he not only assured Jordan and his family that Kevin’s scholarship was good, but if they needed him to get tested to see if he was a match for a kidney transplant then he was all for it.

On January 28th, 2011, after six months of testing, Walter got the call at his first team practice that he was a match for a kidney transplant. Everyone who is a part of the Notre Dame community believes that Mary on top of the Golden Dome, is looking over them and watching out for them. She must have also been watching out for Kevin Jordan on February 7th, 2011 as well. On that date, Jordan and Walter underwent surgery at Emory University Hospital and the Demon Deacons coach gave a kidney to his outfielder who had not played a single inning before that day.

Jordan with Walter after the kidney transplant

Five and a half hours later, both awoke healthy and the kidney Walter had donated was functioning perfectly. At the time of the surgery, Kevin’s thin build made him look like anything but a baseball player. He had lost 40 pounds of muscle from the entire ordeal. Thankfully, when his doctors informed him that he could exercise again; he regained nearly all of the muscle he had lost.

With hard work and perseverance, Kevin Jordan played in his first game as a Demon Deacon on February 17th, 2012. Over two years after his first game, I had the honor of sitting in a seat at the Cove right next to Wake Forest’s dugout. When I first saw Kevin run out of the dugout in the third inning to get loose, it looked like he was full of life. As he passed me I told him how I saw him and his story on ESPN and he replied with a simple “Thank you,” a big smile and a thumbs up as he went back into the dugout.

I understand that, as a Junior ND Blogger, I am supposed to write about Notre Dame athletics-related topics. When I heard about this young man’s story though, I felt obligated to share Kevin and Coach Walter’s story with the Notre Dame community. As a part of the Fighting Irish community, I think we can all appreciate Kevin’s “fight” he had to undertake in order to get back to, not only living life, but also playing the game he loved so much.

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