Dayton native Douglas (“DJ”) Jordan knows all too well how important organ donations are, since a liver and two kidneys saved his life.
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A Patterson Cooperative High School grad, he went to Ohio State University to study dentistry. Instead of going into practice, however, he joined the Air Force.
He was stationed in North Dakota, then Germany, and, in Tokyo, he was reassigned from personnel to a vocalist with the band. “I’d been in every choir Patterson had, and even made it to state competitions,” he said.
Back in Washington, D.C., until 2008, DJ had no noticeable physical problems. “Then, I started getting bloated; I kept growing and knew something was wrong, so went in for tests.”
When tests showed that he had a nonalcoholic cirrhosis and needed a transplant, he was in shock. “I was put on medication, and fluid had to be drained every other week while I waited for a liver,” he said.
As he deteriorated, DJ stopped visiting his family’s Harrison Twp. home. “I didn’t want them, especially my mother, Elizabeth, to know what I was going through.”
His secret was discovered when, in 2013, he unknowingly drove from his home and office in D.C. to Richmond, Va., where he roamed the streets for two days, disoriented, before being located and taken to a transplant center in Baltimore, where he received a liver and kidney transplant.
“The next day, the kidney failed. My sister Michelle, who works at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, was notified and called my brother, Chris, and sister Tracey, both in Atlanta — and the family drove to D.C.
“Chris was tested, but wasn’t a match; then, the doctor told us about a swap program, where he could donate a kidney and it would be swapped for a kidney that was compatible.” After five months on dialysis, a match was found.
Ironically, Chris’ kidney went to another Dayton native, Brian Popp, a chemist and professor at the University of West Virginia. Brian’s mother and father, Diane and Vince Popp, still live in the Shroyer Park home where Brian, a ’97 Chaminade-Julienne grad, grew up. “We didn’t find out until Brian’s senior year that his kidneys hadn’t developed correctly,” said Diane.
By the time DJ was in desperate need of a kidney, so was Brian. “Brian rejected the kidney that Vince had given him and so was on dialysis,” said his mother. “Everyone in the family was getting tested, and our son-in-law’s matched someone in New York, who had a donor that matched DJ.
“Howard Jordan, DJ’s older brother, is a Dayton police officer and told my husband that Brian’s kidney was coming from his brother Chris. Everything lined up so perfectly. All three transplants happened in one day, an amazing journey.”
The Jordan and Popp families met for Thanksgiving, 2016 in Dayton. “It was so touching,” said DJ. “We met his mother and his fiance. They’ve married since, and now have a child.
“Chris is the hero of this story. His kidney donation saved not only my life, but Brian’s.”
“Meeting DJ’s family was a magnificent moment,” recalls Diane. “All I could say to their mother was ‘Thank you for raising such wonderful sons,’ and I couldn’t let go of Chris.”
DJ, 57, is retired from the Air Force and will start traveling and speaking out for organ donations in April, National Donate Life Month. He said, “I plan to spend a year hitting military bases, churches and organizations wherever I go, informing people about donor programs and encouraging them to become donors.
“There are so many people in dialysis centers who know nothing about the swap programs, some of which work for organs other than kidneys.
“There are over 115,000 people waiting for lifesaving organs, and I want to decrease that number,” DJ said.
DJ recommends that interested readers research the following organizations for more information: United Network for Organ Sharing; Kidney Paired Donation; the National Kidney Foundation; and Living Kidney Donor Network.
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