ATLANTA - When Kevin Jordan was deciding where to play college baseball, the commitment of Wake Forest coach Tom Walter to his players helped sway him toward Winston-Salem. Even before taking his first swing, Jordan has learned how deep that devotion runs.
Monday, surgeons at Emory University Hospital removed one of Walter's kidneys and transplanted it into Jordan, who had a kidney functioning at 8 percent of its ability and had been taking 35 pills daily to treat the diseased organ.
"For Coach Walter to do it, you just don't know what it means for our family, for Kevin," Jordan's father, Kevin, said prior to the operation. "It's just something you can't imagine."
Both were faring well Tuesday and hoped to be out of the hospital soon.
Two years ago, there was little reason to suspect that Jordan would develop ANCA vasculitis, an inflammation of the blood vessels that accounts for less than 5 percent of kidney failure worldwide, according to the National Kidney Foundation. A star outfielder at a Columbus, Ga., high school, Jordan was ranked the No. 43 recruit in the country by one recruiting service.
When the Jordans were told Kevin would need a transplant, Walter volunteered if they couldn't find a match within the family. When none were found, Keith Jordan called up his son's coach to see if he was still willing. Walter called it a no-brainer.
"When we recruit our guys, we talk about family and we talk about making sacrifices for one another, for our teammates," Walter said. "So it's something we take very seriously."
Walter began three rounds of testing in December and learned he was a match Jan. 28.
"He's been a very giving person, a very kind person with our baseball program, so in one sense, this should not have surprised me," athletic director Ron Wellman said. "But when someone makes a sacrifice like this to someone outside his biological family, it's a surprise."
Surgeon Kenneth Newell reported that both surgeries went well and expected full recoveries for both.
For Jordan, that meant getting back to living the life of a normal college student-athlete. After his release from the hospital, Jordan will return to Columbus. He hopes to begin taking classes and playing baseball by summer.
"Knowing him, he's going to try to push the envelope," Keith Jordan said.
As for Walter, he expected to be at the Deacons season opener Feb. 18, even if he had to watch from the stands or press box. He said the full recovery time takes about two months. In a year's time, he'll hopefully be hitting fungoes to a lanky five-tool player from Columbus.
"I don't think anybody can anticipate how the dynamic of the relationship will change," Walter said. "But Kevin and I are going to be forever joined at the hip, so to speak."