WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — If you were to ask Greensboro Pastor Donnie Pickeral how he is alive today and as strong as he is, he would credit his faith in God and his guardian angel/pharmacist Dr. Kathleen Kirkland.
“I told her you’re my angel from heaven. You’ve given me the gift of life,” Donnie described of his thankfulness in his pharmacist’s going above and beyond her job title.
The pastor of Aycock Fellowship Ministries was born with a rare form of kidney disease known as IGA Nephropathy.
“It’s genetic. Someone in my family had it, and it was passed down to me,” he said.
It is a lasting inflammation of the kidney which causes it to fail over time.
Donnie did not know that he had it until he was in his 30s and took a trip to get lab work done at the hospital.
“According to doctors, my kidneys were functioning at 50 percent each,” he said. “According to their statistics, I would be on dialysis in two years, and that was in ’91.”
Donnie is a man whose roots are deep in his faith in God. So in those moments of sickness, he prayed and trusted God for health.
He would live almost 20 more years with those same kidneys. However, in 2019, his kidneys would sit at seven percent functionality.
His prayers were answered in July when doctors announced that he had been put on the donor’s list. But he needed another miracle to find someone who was a match in blood type and kidney size.
That miracle came in the form of his pharmacist Kathleen Kirkland. The two met in 2017 during Donnie’s routine trip to CVS for allergy medicine.
“I was very impressed with her because she showed compassion, and she showed concern for me,” Donnie said of Kathleen.
“The way Donnie presents himself, he’s always so positive. He always says that he is blessed by the Lord,” Kathleen said.
In 2019, shortly after he found out he was on the donor list, Donnie told Kathleen during his stop at a CVS in Kernersville.
“I said ‘if somebody can give me a Kidney, I could live and serve God’s people for a long time.’ She said, ‘you’re a pastor aren’t you?’ I said ‘yes’, and she said ‘I want to give you my kidney,’” Donnie said.
When asked about whether or not it was a hard decision, Kathleen said absolutely not.
“I mean, I became a pharmacist because I wanted to help people. He’s one of my patients. I knew that if I was the right match for him – that was just meant to be. God bringing us together,” she said.
The pair underwent surgery in May of 2020. Doctors told Donnie that his prognosis was improved almost instantly.
“This is all God. God brought us together…I got to watch them actually take her kidney out, and they said, ‘it’s about to come through that door.’ It was amazing – I’m witnessing a miracle with my own eyes,” Donnie said.
The two remain very close friends with Donnie referring to the kidney as “their kidney.”
They both stressed that the experience has shown them just how important it is to keep an open mind about being an organ donor.