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Peace and Love

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Posted 5/4/2014

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This time a year ago, Jordan Cook had only the worries of a typical teenager. The North Platte resident had just turned 17 and was enjoying high school. But in August, she started noticing bruises. She didn't feel well. A referral to specialists at The Nebraska Medical Center brought a devastating diagnosis: aplastic anemia. "They told my mom that my choice was to get a bone marrow transplant or she'd be burying me in six months," Cook remembers. "That was the scariest thing I'd ever faced in my life... at 17." Her younger sister turned out to be a match for the transplant. But that was only part of her live-saving treatment. Months of difficult chemotherapy followed. Cook says there were moments when she wanted to give up. One of her lowest moments became one of her most cherished memories. The day she found Peace. Or to be more accurate, the day Peace found her. "I remember when she walked in the room and said her name was Peace, I just started crying," Cook says. "I was extremely emotional that day. It was the first day of chemo and I was scared." Peace Locoh, a hospital housekeeper greeted Jordan Cook the way she greets all her patients on the Oncology Hematology Special Care Unit (OHSCU) -- with a smile. "She said her name was Peace," Jordan's mom Michelle Tomlinson remembers. "Her father and I just about hit the floor. Her room is decorated with Peace signs; that's her thing. It was like a sign from God." "I said, 'Jordan, you're going to be OK. Be strong. God is going to do everything for you,'" Locoh says. "We prayed all the time. Now she's feeling better, I'm very glad to see her walking by herself now." Jordan and Peace became fast friends. Over the following days, weeks and months of treatment, Locoh would sing to Jordan as she cleaned her room. They'd talk on the phone on her days off. She provided comfort on the days Jordan might have otherwise given up. "She came in our room one day," Cook remembers. "I was teary and she said, 'What's wrong?' I put my hand through my hair and she could see it was falling out from the chemo. She said, 'Losing your hair is a small price to pay for having your life still.'" Through the ups and downs of treatment, Cook's condition improved. She was able to move from the OHSCU to a room in the Lied Transplant Center. Peace still came to visit every day, entering the room with a hug and her familiar "Oh, sweetheart!" Tomlinson often says it's as if Jordan has two mothers. Locoh agrees. "She has one African mom and one American mom!" she says with a laugh. When Cook was finally well enough to leave the medical center and go home to North Platte, it was a bittersweet time. "When we found out we were going home, we all cried," Tomlinson said. "Peace said she wanted to go with Jordan. When we leave, she'll be apart from Peace. And that's very hard for us." Periodic returns to Omaha in the weeks since have put Jordan and Peace back together. Jordan talks about becoming a chef someday. Peace talks about teaching her to cook some of the traditional dishes from her home country of Togo in West Africa. Jordan says she'd like to see Togo for herself someday. "They need to come see our home," Peace says. "My sister back home, I tell her, 'I have a family here now.' That's Jordan and Michelle."