Pastor answers prayer by donating his kidney

Published: January 9, 2007 | 5265th good news item since 2003

Harold Bricker has a new lease on life in 2007 – because someone stepped up to save his life in 2006.

After nearly a year on a kidney transplant list, the former Greencastle resident said he “turned to the Great Physician” for a helping hand.

Bricker, who has rare O-positive blood type, said he asked the Lord to send him a donor.

“I was on the list with 60,000 people waiting for a kidney. How do you pick one of 60,000?” Bricker asked. “I didn’t hear anything for a whole year.”

But last August, Bricker’s prayers were answered. The Rev. Doug Kelchner, who had pastored at Bricker’s church, called out of the blue.

“He said, ‘I understand you need a kidney. Has anyone come forth?’”

When Bricker told him doctors had not found a match, the pastor replied, ‘I’m your man.’

“I was aware of his need and was just convinced it was the right thing to do,” Kelchner said.

On the waiting list

Besides undergoing back surgery, Bricker said he had never experienced major health problems. The father of three grown children and seven grandchildren enjoys time with his family and works full time with Jack Gaughen real estate in Chambersburg.

Previously, Bricker had worked at Jack Gaughen’s Greencastle office and had started his own seafood store where Wolf’s Bakery is today.

About 10 years ago, a prostate problem caused Bricker’s kidneys to completely shut down. Doctors told him to come in for regular checkups every three months.

During a routine checkup in April 2005, a red flag went up.

“They said I was going to have to make some changes,” Bricker said. “I had to go on dialysis and needed to go on the transplant list.”

At 65, Bricker was placed on the kidney transplant list at the University of Maryland.

In the meantime, Bricker underwent peritoneal dialysis for 10 hours a night over nine months. Eventually, he developed bacteria and was switched to hemodialysis three days a week. The three-hour procedure rid his system of the bacteria but also left him drained.

“They said the list could take four to five years. I guess I realized I was at the end of my rope with what I could do,” Bricker said. “I simply gave it to the Lord and said this is way bigger than me.”

Finding peace

The entire time Bricker was on dialysis, he continued to work. The situation was nerve-wracking, but Bricker said he kept it mostly to himself.

One month after doctors put him on a transplant list, Bricker said he had an inspiring conversation with a client he calls “an angel.”

The client had a real estate question, and the two scheduled an appointment.

Bricker said his son had worked with the client’s husband, who had died of cancer several years ago. Without knowing Bricker’s situation, she began discussing her husband and the peace he found while battling his disease.

“Her husband had the attitude that God would heal him on earth or take him to heaven and heal him,” Bricker said. “Either way, he was a winner. She didn’t even know about my situation, but I decided I’m going to be a winner, too.”

Bricker said the woman had no idea how much their conversation had meant.

“It became easier to accept because of the peace I received,” he said.

Bricker said he never asked anyone to donate a kidney. He simply asked the Lord to “move in someone’s heart” and find the right person to step forward.

The right person

When Bricker asked the Lord for help, Kelchner didn’t know he was the right person. Bricker teased that Kelchner’s wife said he didn’t like doctors and never had major health issues.

Bricker and his wife Martha knew Kelchner from Chambersburg Brethren in Christ Church. The Brickers served as a deacon couple there while Kelchner pastored from 1990 to 1993, but had seen each other only twice since.

Bricker never divulged his need to Kelchner, but the word got out.

Kelchner just happened to accompany his mother to her house settlement last summer. Bricker said Kelchner asked a Jack Gaughen agent how the Brickers were doing, and the agent updated him on Bricker’s condition.

Kelchner called Martha Bricker and checked her husband’s blood type. That’s when he realized that both of them had O-positive blood.

On Aug. 17 at 11 a.m., Bricker’s office phone rang and a voice on the other line said, “I’m your man.”

‘Kidney brothers’

Almost immediately, Bricker and Kelchner started the necessary steps to work toward a transplant.

Bricker said he passed along the number for University of Maryland and Kelchner went through about eight tests. The transplant was finally scheduled Dec. 6.

Neither said they were nervous. Bricker and Kelchner were side-by-side encouraging each other with sheets pulled up to their faces before the surgery.

“I wasn’t really nervous. They did a good job preparing and are a great team,” Kelchner said. “They make you feel very comfortable.”

“In the prep room waiting for surgery, the nurse asked, ‘Are you guys brothers?’”

Bricker replied, “Yeah, kidney brothers!”

Surgery went well, and Bricker said he was up and walking the same day. Kelchner said he experienced some complications from the anesthesia but was back preaching a few weeks afterward.

“It was a good experience. I wouldn’t change it,” he said.

“This situation changed my life completely,” Bricker said. “I think it’s better to give than receive, but I received in this situation … Doug was the giver, and I can’t imagine how good he feels.”

Bricker continues to recover and said he had an enjoyable holiday season with his family. He tries to find the right words to thank Kelchner, but Kelchner always interrupts, Bricker said.

“I understand how grateful he is, but at the same time I’m very grateful for the opportunity,” Kelchner said. “ I was glad to step back in the shadows and observe him and his family (over Christmas).”

Published in Faith, Prayer
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