Major Keith Pike entered the college for officer training in St. John’s, N.L., in the fall of 1987, eager to learn and serve God and The Salvation Army through full-time ministry.
But his dream of officership almost died just a few months later when Major Pike was diagnosed with kidney disease. He picked up a sore throat in his first semester at the college, which seemed harmless enough. Major Pike did not know that he had actually caught the strep throat virus, and so it went untreated and spread to his kidneys, impairing his body’s ability to filter toxins out of his blood.
Suddenly, at just 22 years old, he was facing the possibility of spending the rest of his life on dialysis—or even death.
Sitting in his hospital bed the day he received the diagnosis, Major Pike opened his Bible to do his devotions.
“The reading that day was Psalm 62: ‘The Lord is my rock and salvation, my fortress; I will not be shaken,’ ” he remembers. “Reading that verse, I knew that he was going to take care of me, and so I thought, ‘I’ll just take it one day at a time.’ ”
For the first few months after his diagnosis, Major Pike was on hemodialysis at the hospital three times a week for four hours, before switching to peritoneal dialysis, an at-home treatment.
Undeterred by his illness, he went off to his summer appointments, taking his medical supplies with him, but every day was a challenge.
“One of the side effects of kidney disease is that—as the level of toxins in your blood goes up—your energy goes down,” he explains. “It was really difficult, trying to balance the demands of work and school with my deteriorating health.”
In response to the crisis, his immediate family underwent testing to see if any of them could be a suitable donor. Coming from a family of eight, there was an increased possibility that Major Pike would have a match, but he never expected to have four—two of his younger brothers were identical matches, while his mother and a sister were half matches.
One of his brothers was too young to donate, but the other, John, was more than willing to help.
The surgery was scheduled for October 1988 and took place in Toronto as kidney transplant surgery was not available in Newfoundland and Labrador at the time.
Major Pike was ready for relief. By the time he went in for surgery, the peritoneal dialysis was no longer as effective, and the level of toxins in his blood was 18 times what it should have been.
The surgery was very successful. Just eight hours afterward, the toxins in his blood had dropped to four times normal levels. Major Pike spent two weeks in the hospital, and another two weeks in Toronto recuperating and going to follow-up appointments, to reduce the risk that his body would reject the new kidney.
When he finally returned to training college, he felt transformed.
“It was amazing,” says Major Pike, “to go from having no energy, to the point where you just want to sleep all day, to being wide awake.
“You don’t necessarily recognize it as it’s happening—the incremental regression of your kidney function,” he adds. “You just get a little more tired every day. But after the transplant took place, it was as if this slow death was suddenly stopped and transformed into life.”
Major Pike was commissioned the following spring and now serves as territorial youth secretary. In the past 25 years, he has had appointments across the territory and been on several mission trips—activities that would not have been possible without the kidney transplant. “The reality,” he says, “is that if I didn’t have the transplant, I wouldn’t be here today.”
And when he’s facing difficult circumstances now, Major Pike returns to the comforting words of Psalm 62.
“My experience with kidney disease taught me how to rely on God,” he says. “I don’t get too worried about things. When issues come up, I’m strengthened by remembering that these are momentary issues in time, and God works on a different schedule than we do.
“Looking back on the last 25 years, I can see that God’s hand has been directing all along,” he adds. “There’s no reason to think he’s not going to do that for whatever lies ahead.”