Cedars-Sinai Blog

A Kidney Transplant and a Visit from Rampage: Jordan Kirkland's Story

Jordan Kirkland with Rampage, the Ram's mascot.

When Jordan Kirkland was born prematurely at just 25 weeks of gestation, doctors didn't know if the 1-pound baby was going to make it. She was born with a condition called persistent caudal malformation. Infants born with this rare condition typically have abnormalities that affect the lower half of the body.

Jordan's condition so severely affected her development, it left her body with no way to expel waste. She also had failing kidneys that would leave her needing a transplant at a young age.

The baby girl was given up for adoption by her biological mother.

"Her attitude toward life is amazing, and she is a real inspiration to those around her."

At the same time, Tammy and Doug Kirkland were exploring adoption. The pair had two sons and wanted to complete their family with a daughter.

After two other attempts at adopting didn't work out, they learned about Jordan through their church.

"We learned she'd been turned down by four families due to her extensive health complications," says Tammy. "We went to the hospital, they put her in my arms and I knew she was the one that God had me waiting for. It was meant to be"

A team of doctors laid out Jordan's medical issues, and to the surprise of her care team, the Kirklands weren't deterred.

"I knew that God wanted her to be with us. She was the piece that was missing," Tammy says. "She was so beautiful and perfect."

A new family

After three months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at a local medical center, Jordan went home with her new parents. She has spent much of her life in and out of the hospital since then and has had more than 30 surgeries.

When her kidneys started to fail, she underwent placement of a dialysis catheter and started dialysis before her 10th birthday.

"We almost lost her numerous times," says Tammy. "She's lucky to be alive."

After Jordan was turned down by two hospitals for a kidney transplant, the Kirklands came to Cedars-Sinai.

"Nobody wanted to take a risk on her for a kidney, her history was so complex," Tammy recalls. "Cedars-Sinai decided to take a chance on her."

On Jan. 25, 2017, Jordan received a new kidney and a new lease on life.

"I had a lot of complications after my transplant, but once things got started in the right direction, it was amazing," Jordan says. "I had energy I thought I'd never have again. It was really nice to feel that way again."

Jordan, now 18 years old, says one of the best things to come from her kidney transplant was the chance to be social again.

"My friends would go out and do things that normal teenagers do, and I'd have to stay back because I'd get so tired," she says. "It was so nice to be able to go out with my friends again."

She still faces many obstacles as she grapples with a lifelong, chronic condition, but for now she's happy to be feeling well.

"I've had a hard time going through all of this, and I've never seen a light at the end of the tunnel, but you have to see the better side," she says. "It's hard having a chronic illness, but you have to have faith that it will get better."

That faith has rubbed off on her care team, as well.

"Her attitude toward life is amazing, and she is a real inspiration to those around her," says Dr. Dechu Puliyanda, director of the Cedars-Sinai Pediatric Nephrology Program.

Family bonding

Jordan and her family spent many long hours together in the hospital and recuperating at home. During that time, they bonded over their love of sports, in particular the Los Angeles Rams.

Doug is a lifelong Rams fan and has passed that love on to his daughter.

"I started watching the games with my dad, and the whole family got into it," Jordan says. "It's a family thing now. One year, we had a Rams-themed Christmas with homemade Rams ornaments and stockings—it was really cool!"

In addition to being recognized at a Rams home game earlier this season, Jordan recently got a surprise visit from Rampage, the team's mascot. He delivered a special video message from offensive tackle Rob Havenstein.

"I didn't expect that! It was so fun," says Jordan. "The video was cool, too—it was really nice to see that."