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Pastor donates kidney to member of his congregation following their COVID-19 battle

A longtime runner and friend to the AJC Peachtree Road Race, Jack Abbott found himself in need of a miracle. His pastor stepped up to help.

ATLANTA — A passionate runner with a soft spot for the AJC Peachtree Road Race, Jack Abbott, served as course director of the iconic Atlanta 10k for years. Prior to race day, Abbott took on the vital task of examining the 6.2 mile Peachtree course, looking for any blemish in the roadway that might trip a runner or cause a wheelchair athlete to spill.

But despite thousands of hours surveying the racecourse for his fellow racers, there are just some bumps in the road that can't be predicted. Abbott's own running was put on pause after his health went off course due to Covid-19. 

"I almost did not survive," Abbott shared with 11Alive. "I did survive, but my kidney went down to five percent. I went immediately on dialysis."

Abbott said he had already been on the kidney transplant for years, but the virus had severely depleted his kidney function. Little did Abbott know that a simple lunch, a check-in with a friend, would turn into much more.

"I was having lunch with Jimmy," he said when questions regarding his kidney condition came up. "He said like it was talking about the weather, 'I'll give you one of my kidneys.'"

Not only do Abbott and Jimmy Slick share the same blood type, a promising sign for donor compatibility, the two men also share a passion for running and a common ground in their faith. Slick serves as pastor of Summit Baptist Church, which Abbott attends. 

"One of the things we teach people is that you're to love your neighbor as yourself," Slick explained. "I've had years of teaching others. I felt this was the perfect opportunity to model what I tell other people they should be doing." 

The transplant got the green light from Abbott's doctors, and thanks to the lifesaving surgery, his health is back on the right track. He reports the kidney was already functioning at 60 percent post-surgery. 

As both men focus on recovery, Abbott aims for the day when he'll be running once again. 

He hopes Slick will be able to join him. 

"It's just incredible, and I'm still trying to process how it all happened, and how wonderful a person he is to be doing such a thing," Abbott said.  

According to the National Kidney Foundation, the average time on the donor waitlist can be three to five years and even longer in some areas of the country.