Jordan Richardson looks, sounds, and plays like any normal 9-year-old girl. "I like to play with dolls. I like to wear dresses, obviously. I'm really good at the monkey bars...if I do say so myself!" she says.
But, underneath her smile and sunny disposition are things keeping her from living a normal life..."complex medical things," says Jordan's mom, Traci Richardson, who says when Jordan was born she was a perfectly healthy baby.
"She had gone from being a robust, normal, healthy child to full life support. On a ventilator, tubes everywhere, within 24 hours," Traci says.
Doctors eventually diagnosed 2-month-old Jordan with a rare lung disorder called alveolar capillary dysplasia with pulmonary vein misalignment, which resulted in a lung transplant when she was just 5-months-old.
"When I go back to that day and I kind of relive it, I almost can't breathe because of what I knew what was going to be in her future," says Traci.
Traci knew the complications well because she already lost one child to the same disease.
"This is mostly a special occasion." says Jordan. "What are we making these cupcakes for?" we asked. "For my brother Joshua, in memory of him, it's his birthday," says Jordan.
"Joshua had such a hard life in his three-and-a-half years. As the mom having to watch it a second time, I get sick just thinking about it. And then, God has just been so kind because same disease, same diagnosis, and a whole different outcome," says Traci.
Jordan has already beaten the odds with this rare condition. Lung transplant recipiants live an average of five years after their transplant. Jordan is going strong almost ten years with her new lungs.
"So many people think that, 'Oh, well she's had her transplant, her immune system will get stronger.' No, her immune system doesn't get stronger. She takes nine medications that make sure it's suppressed forever," says Traci.
Jordan has a weakened immune system which means that even the common cold could potentially kill her.
"We have to be very careful with her. We don't bring her out in public a whole lot. "And so the world doesn't get to see her. And the world doesn't get to share in the joy that she is as much as I wish they could," says Traci.
Jordan is homeschooled, very few visitors are allowed, and she only goes out in public where there are few people around. But, Jordan doesn't let her condition or isolation suffocate her spirit. "I'm glad that I could be the one to show what God can do. And I'm glad that I can be the one to lead the way," she says.
It's her leadership that inspired a local charity group, the Knights of Columbus.
"We are going to honor a little girl whose life may be shorter than most," says Steve Pokrywka, who coordinateed the Knights of Columbus and Rising Stars ballooning to give Jordan and her family a ride of a lifetime.
"We're going on a hot air balloon ride!" says Jordan. "Oh, the girls are nervous!" says Traci.
"I don't know if it was on her bucket list, but I think it was on most of ours and she's made our day just by doing this," says Pokrywka.
"I think we're just going to remember a beautiful flight and just a good time as a family," says Jordan's Dad, Mason Richardson.
"It's just such a blessing to be able to do this. We're very, very grateful and it's going to be a great time," Traci says.
"I think I'm going to look back on it as one of the greatest experiences that I've ever been a part of," Jordan says.
"To do something like this for a girl that she can't be around a lot of people because of her disease, but we think she's an angel," says Pokrywka.
"I'm speechless when I think that God chose little me to fit such a great purpose," says Jordan.
Jordan's brother, Joshua, was diagnosed with the same disorder, and died before she was born. It wasn't until after Jordan's diagnosis that doctors learned that the disorder is genetic. The Richardsons say that every day is a blessing with Jordan and they just take life one day at a time.
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