2.09.2011

Wake Forest Baseball Coach Donates Kidney To Player Suffering Rare Condition


Last Thursday night, Tom Walter got in his car and began a 300-mile drive from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to Atlanta. Wake Forest's baseball coach is well-acquainted with the rhythms of the road in general, and this stretch of highway in particular.

The road to Atlanta runs through small towns like Kings Mountain and Lavonia and Startex, towns where Walter and his coaches sift through the best local talent, looking for that one gem, that perfect fit. Kid gets a scholarship offer to play for a big-name school. Coach takes a liking to kid, treats him like family. Coach stands up for kid, gives kid a chance that no one else could or would. The kid in this story is a baseball player from Columbus, Georgia, named Kevin Jordan. Recruited by Walter and his assistants to play ball for the Demon Deacons, the rangy outfielder first visited Winston-Salem possessed of rare confidence for a prep athlete. Kevin Jordan has ANCA vasculitis, a disease in which his own white blood cells began attacking his own tissues. In August, right about the time he began attending classes at Wake, doctors determined that Jordan's kidney function was down to eight percent. A kidney donation requires a match, and no one in Jordan's family matched up. Jordan was looking at joining the national registry. The United Network for Organ Sharing indicates that in 2009, 16,829 kidney transplants were performed in the United States, but nearly 86,000 people await a kidney, with a median wait time of four years. The disease didn't wait, however, and it didn't respect Jordan's new surroundings. It was right around that time when Coach Walter decided he ought to get tested.

Coach learns he's a match and offers up his kidney for this kid he barely knows. People will hear of Tom Walter’s story, they’ll be amazed by it and him, and he’s cool with all that.

“There's not a kid on this
team, or a kid that I've ever coached, that I wouldn’t have done this for.”

As a coach, he set George Washington University’s record for wins with 275 against 124 losses. 2005. New Orleans. When Katrina hit, Walter gathered his team together and moved his base of operations 1,100 miles west, to Las Cruces, New Mexico. He struck a deal with New Mexico State University for his team to play in the fall semester there, and in the spring semester, the team lived out of hotel rooms in Mobile, Alabama.



That season, despite calling three different states home, the team won 30 games for the first time in a decade. A man stands by his team. Starting five days before Christmas, Walter underwent cross-match testing, chest x-rays, CT scans and blood pressure monitoring. He passed every test, and on January 28, doctors proclaimed him a match for kidney donation.
I would have been extremely disappointed for Kevin if I wasn't a match. Any time you’re talking organ transplant, you’re talking significant risk. Both Alonzo Mourning and Sean Elliott returned to play in the NBA after kidney transplants, so it’s possible Jordan could return to the diamond. For Walter, the prospects for recovery are more favorable. Monday morning, while everyone else in the sporting world was still debating Aaron Rodgers, tiny Vader and the Black Eyed Peas, Walter and Jordan went under the knife. Doctors took Walter into the operating room at 8:00 a.m, and Jordan followed 90 minutes later. The procedure began at 11:15, and 45 minutes later, Walter's role was done. By 4:00, Jordan was resting in his own room at Emory University Hospital.

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