Jack and Julie Jordan of Brainerd figure they haven't spent more than three nights apart during their 26 years of marriage.
But come Tuesday night, the couple will be sleeping apart, recovering on separate hospital floors, after Julie gives her husband one of her kidneys.
For Julie Jordan, the invasive surgical procedure and the removal of her healthy kidney is a small price to pay for another 26 years with her husband, Jack, who suffers from a hereditary kidney disease.
"I just feel so fortunate I can do this for him," said Julie. "When you love someone so much and see him deteriorate like this it will be nice to see him get healthy again."
When Jack was in high school, he permanently damaged one of his kidneys after falling from a horse. The damaged kidney was removed in 1985. He learned 10 years ago that he suffers from glomerulosclerosis nephritis, a hereditary disease that causes scarring within the kidneys in the small balls of tiny blood vessels called the glomeruli.
Doctors told the Jordans that within five years Jack would need to undergo dialysis as the result of kidney failure. He was fortunate he didn't have to undergo dialysis during the past 10 years, but doctors would have required him to soon if he were not having the kidney transplant Tuesday at Fairview-University Medical Center in Minneapolis. As of four months ago, his kidney was functioning at 16 percent and was getting worse.
Since the disease is hereditary, Jack's blood relatives, including his brothers and their four children, couldn't be donors, even though they all wanted to. Doctors have said that the waiting list for a donor was 3-5 years. Most people who need kidneys don't live long enough to receive one, said Julie. She decided in January to have her blood tested at one of Jack's doctor's appointments. It turned out they were a match.
"When they came back and said it was a perfect match, we couldn't believe it," said Jack.
"I cried like a baby," said Julie, "because I felt there was finally something I could do to make him start feeling better. Everything is just falling into place so wonderfully that it's just meant to be."
Jack has his reservations about putting his wife through the operation, especially if the transplant is unsuccessful. He said he was afraid it would all be "for nothing."
"It's never for nothing," Julie scolded her husband. "Not in a minute.
"We've spent 26 years together and we've seen a lot of ups and downs. I said I want another 26 years with you," she said, as she patted him on the knee.
Nearly 13 percent of live kidney donations in the United States are between spouses, according to the International Association of Living Organ Donors Inc. According to 1998 statistics, about 19 percent of donors were a parent of the recipient, about 17 percent were children and 38 percent were full siblings. Seven percent were some other blood relative while about 5 percent were some other unrelated donor.
Jack worked at Potlatch for 30 years until last March when he had to undergo heart surgery, just missing by two months the ability to receive the former mill's benefit package. Julie works at Trinity Children's Center in Brainerd. A benefit dinner for the Jordans is being planned for May 1 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Brainerd.
The transplant operation is expected to take about 3-4 hours on Tuesday. Jack will be hospitalized for about a week while Julie is expected to be in the hospital for 3-4 days, they said.
The couple said they've always been close -- they said they often finish each other's sentences and know what the other person is thinking before it is said -- but now the couple will share more than their lives together. They'll share her kidneys.
"It's going to be really hard not being in the same (hospital) room," said Julie.
"I'm going to wake up right away and wonder how you're doing," Jack told her.
"I don't know how we could get any closer," said Julie Jordan. "We just have that weird chemistry."
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