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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Connections: The Smallwood Family

A Kidney for Jordan

The Smallwood family (Tony and Paula and children Brittany, 20, and Jordan, 18) gather this Thanksgiving especially grateful for Tony and Jordan’s health. Jordan and his dad share a special bond — the kidney Tony donated to his son. The events leading up to their dual surgery on Sept. 22, 2008, began with Jordan’s premature birth in Tulsa, Okla., on Feb. 17, 1992. Recently Tony, Paula and Jordan spoke with Managing Editor Scott Harrup.

evangel: What were the circumstances surrounding Jordan’s birth, and what were the first signs he had health complications?
He was exactly four weeks premature. His lungs were not fully developed, so that was the main concern. He was in the hospital about two weeks at birth. He actually had an excellent birth weight at 6 pounds. Compared to other premature babies, he was a big boy. Things seemed fairly normal when we took him home.

He did have a hard time learning to walk and crawl. At the time, we didn’t understand why. At 15 months when he had kidney failure, we knew that it was back pain that caused him not to be able to walk easily. It was pretty scary when we initially found out that his kidneys had failed.

evangel: Can you tell me more about that?
PAULA: In May 1993, we were at the doctor because Jordan’s health seriously deteriorated. The doctor ran a plethora of tests. He was ready to send us out the door because he thought Jordan just had a strange flu virus. But as we were leaving, he asked us to come back so he could run another test. I truly believe God brought that about. The blood test showed something was wrong with Jordan’s kidneys.

“Get him to the hospital,” the doctor told us. “Don’t stop for anyone. They know you’re on your way. They will take him to ICU. Don’t even register him.”

By the time we got him to ICU, he was very lethargic, and they put him on an IV right away.

evangel: What happened then?
They performed a vesicostomy, which is a procedure where a tube from the abdomen allows the kidneys to function more easily. About a year later, they did a reverse vesicostomy so my kidneys would have to function on their own again. Within a month, I had an infection in my right kidney, and they ended up having to remove it so there would be no further damage to my body.

But my left kidney had sustained severe damage earlier and couldn’t recover completely. When I was 2 they referred me to a kidney specialist in Kansas City, Mo. He said I would probably need a kidney transplant between the ages of 8 and 14.

evangel: You were able to hold out until you were 16.
JORDAN: I was 16 years old and in my junior year of high school when I had my transplant. Both my parents were matches, which is very, very rare. But we ended up going with my dad.

evangel: Tony, what was that experience like?
TONY: As a dad, there’s no greater joy than to give your son life and then see him live for God and see how God is in him and using him. As humans, there are always those scary moments, the what-ifs. But God always gave us the peace that everything was going to be great.

The day of the surgery, I had peace. There was that confidence that was given by the Lord. It was just such a joy that I was going to do this for my son because I loved him so much.

We had a little time before the operation, and I just embraced him and told him I love him and that everything is going to be OK because everything is in God’s hands. God’s in control. It was just a special moment, a special bonding time between us.

evangel: Describe the complication that developed during the transplant.
It appeared I was going to have a heart attack. So they had a specialist come in to prepare to take action if indeed I did have a heart attack. At this point, they were going to stop the transplant so they could save my life. I wouldn’t have received my dad’s kidney. They had already taken out the kidney, and they can only have it out of a body for so long, otherwise it doesn’t work.

evangel: So that kidney could have been lost?
Yes. Miraculously, all my heart levels went back to normal, and they continued with the transplant. I never had any more complications. It only took me seven days to recover in the hospital, which is very good. Most transplant patients take about 10 to 14 days.

evangel: How did you continue to see God’s faithfulness after the surgery?
PAULA: God constantly took care of us. Before the surgery, it had been a difficult decision to have Tony take on this procedure that would keep him out of work for weeks on end. But it was like the gentle voice of God spoke to our hearts and said, Sit back and watch what I can do.

We attend Republic (Mo.) Assembly of God, and they gave a substantial offering to help us with our bills. Friends and family helped us as well. Meals were brought in every night for the first few weeks. We did not have any financial needs whatsoever the entire time Tony was off work.

TONY: God met every need and beyond. Our church helped out in a great, great way that covered all of our expenses, even the expense of going up and back to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. The other thing is, you could feel the prayers of so many people. It just really touches you. Literally, thousands were praying.

evangel: What have you learned through this?
God has blessed me so much, I can’t even describe it. There haven’t been any complications. I feel like I’m living a normal life, like it’s not even an issue. I just feel like a normal kid.

I go to the hospital, and I see kids in there who are so much worse than I was. They’ve had it so much tougher. I see kids on dialysis, and it breaks my heart. But I feel so thankful I never had to have dialysis. It’s been amazing. It feels like a normal life, and I believe it’s because of God.

PAULA: We’ve said many times we don’t know how people who don’t have God get through times like these. God will see you through it. Surround yourself with a good Christian base. But it’s also good to surround yourself with non-Christians as well, because then they get to see how God works in your life and what God has done.

TONY: Put your trust in God — that’s what it really boils down to. He’s in control of the situation, and He’s got your best interests at heart. We always had a peace that everything would work out according to His plan. God has sustained Jordan in everything, in every area of his life. It’s just a joy as a father to see everything work out great for him.


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