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  • The remarkable Mrs. Jordan

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    The remarkable Mrs. Jordan

    A violent crash on Christmas Day 1989 would forever change the lives of a young woman, her fiance and their young child.

    By WAVENEY ANN MOORE

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 16, 2001


    ST. PETERSBURG -- Kisha Jordan is gathering her family and friends for an Easter celebration today.

    They'll have ham, turkey, collard greens, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn-on-the-cob, fried apples, sweet potato pie and chocolate cake.

    Later, the children will hunt for Easter eggs.

    While the holiday is cause for celebration, Mrs. Jordan says she finds joy every day.

    In 1989, she almost lost her life and two most dear to her.

    It was Christmas Day.

    A brief article in the St. Petersburg Times the next day gave the bare facts.

    "A 13-year-old suspect in a car theft crashed into a Pinellas Park police cruiser Monday, injuring an officer, then fled south on U.S. 19 into St. Petersburg and hit another car, critically injuring a woman, police said."

    Few would realize the cataclysm behind those unimpassioned words. For more than a week, Mrs. Jordan would lie in Bayfront Medical Center unaware of the world around her. And once awake, she would learn that for her, it had changed.

    She was 19 years old, and doctors had been forced to amputate her right leg.

    "I remember having tears falling down," she said, recalling her reaction to the terrible news.

    "In my mind, it was like, how could this be? I remember walking and leaving my mother's house and to wake up a week, a week and a half later and to find out that I don't have my leg."

    Doctors had also removed half of her pelvis. Further, they were warning her against getting pregnant again.

    And what about the former Dixie Hollins High School quarterback who was home for the Christmas holidays from Mississippi State University? Could he still want her now?

    Just days earlier it had all been different.

    "I remember in the morning time waking up and giving out presents," Mrs. Jordan recalled of that eventful Christmas Day.

    "We went to my mother's house. I was taking her a present, which was a box of new shoes. I remember leaving, telling her I love her and that I would be back later . . . and then we left."

    With her were Jerome Jordan, 20, the Mississippi State student she had loved since middle school, and their small daughter, Kendra. It was a day for family gatherings, so they were driving to a traditional Christmas dinner at the home of Jordan's aunt and grandmother.

    According to the Times story, Jordan had the right of way when he drove west through the intersection of Fifth Avenue S and 34th Street.

    "The driver of the stolen Buick ran the red light on 34th Street and hit the passenger side of Jordan's car, pushing it 100 yards west of the intersection," the article said.

    "He hit us on my side," Mrs. Jordan said.

    "Once he hit us, he hit us again and that's when the cops ran into him and they hit us again."

    About two blocks away, family members were waiting.

    "When they heard the impact is when my mother-in-law and them said they ran out. Kendra was almost 2. She was in the back in a car seat. My mother-in-law said when they got there, she was screaming and stuff and her car seat was filled with glass. (Jerome) was knocked onto the pavement. . . . and I was pushed into the driver's seat," Mrs. Jordan said.

    Neither Kendra nor her father were injured, but Mrs. Jordan was.

    Dr. Steven Epstein, a trauma surgeon, remembers Mrs. Jordan well.

    "She is remarkable. Both she and her husband," Epstein said recently, adding that he had been particularly impressed by their faith.

    "She had a badly damaged pelvis and it went on to compromise the circulation in her right thigh, and eventually we had to remove half of her pelvis and all of her leg," he said.

    "She required daily dressing changes, multiple operations and skin grafts. We actually told her not to get pregnant."

    Mrs. Jordan ignored her doctors and went on to have two more children, daughters Keona, 9, and Kenya, 8. Before that, though, her childhood sweetheart had persuaded her to marry him.

    After the accident, he did not return to college. Instead, he remained by her side.

    "I tried to push him away a couple of times," Mrs. Jordan said as she sat at the dining room table in the family's apartment in the Maximo neighborhood.

    The accident gave his life "a drastic change for the better," said Jordan, now 31.

    "I got to know so much about myself and certainly a lot about my wife. We were still young and untested in life. I had to make some tough decisions about schooling, about family, about her care. . . . I learned how fragile life is, and I also learned how to prioritize," said the fiscal records specialist for the Clerk of the Court for Pinellas County.

    Jordan, who also is enrolled in an information systems management program at St. Petersburg Junior College, said he learned his sense of responsibility from his father, James D. Jordan, a maintenance worker at All Children's Hospital.

    "One thing I always had certainty of was I knew what time he'd be home. I knew that I'd have a roof over my head. I knew that we would have a place to stay. I knew that I could watch him and my mother sit down together. So to me, to abandon someone was almost alien. And certainly . . . even though I was young, I knew this was the person for me," he said.

    The test came when she left the hospital after more than three months.

    "I signed myself out," she said.

    "I felt that if I stayed in there, my life would have been over. I realized that I had a child to fight for. When I was released from there, that's when my husband had to show me how to do everything. Like he was my physical therapist. . . . The first week and a half, he had to carry me everywhere we went, until we went to Red Cross and they loaned me a wheelchair."

    Two years later, after her husband enlisted in the military, a branch of the Non Commissioned Officers Association raised money to help pay for a prosthesis.

    The 13-year-old driver who hit the couple's car escaped with a cut lip. In 1990 the Jordans sued the teenager, then a student at Meadowlawn Middle School, his mother, the owners of the car he stole and the city of Pinellas Park. They received about $100,000 in settling the case with the city.

    These days Mrs. Jordan and her husband are working to save souls. Six weeks ago the couple started Water of Life Christian Church, which meets at 10 a.m. Sundays at the Frank W. Pierce Community Center, at 2000 Seventh St. S. Though their congregation numbers no more than two dozen, they are optimistic.

    Mrs. Jordan said she has never been mad at God because of the accident that disabled her.

    "I never was angry, because after that is when I saw that God began to open up more doors for me," she said.

    "I've always had the same heart that I had as far as being friendly and happy with people, but he changed my life and I've seen how he saved my life. . . . I could have died."

    -- Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this article.

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