By Hasti Ghasemi Vaghar, Current Staff
Michael Rahlf, a social studies teacher at West Bend West High School, might be the friend of the year.
Rather than plan a restful spring break, Rahlf headed to Milwaukee Wednesday to donate a kidney to his long-time friend, Dan Malnory.
About two years ago, Malnory found out he was in renal failure and was doing peritoneal home dialysis for a while. However, his condition took a turn for the worse after a year. Realizing that Malnory did not have a lot of time, Rahlf started to look into the kidney donation process.
“He didn’t really ask me per se,” Rahlf said. “I knew he was in bad shape and I know enough of the process that if you go on the waiting list, you’re gonna be waiting for a really long time. I think the average wait time is five years. And I just don’t know if he has that kind of time.”
Rahlf and Malnory have been good friends since the second grade. They went to St. Francis Cabrini School together in the 1980s and later attended the West Bend High Schools. Although they moved away to different cities throughout their lives, they have remained in touch and have been friends for 31 years.
Last year, near spring break, Rahlf went to St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee to get the first rounds of testing done. The results showed that despite being a match with his friend, Rahlf was considered a high-risk donor. Therefore, they entered an exchange program and were able to find a pair in Virginia who were in the same situation. Ultimately, it was agreed that Rahlf would donate his kidney to the donee in Virginia, and in return, Malnory would receive a kidney from the donor in Virginia.
Since then, Rahlf has been going through more appointments and had to lose weight in order to make the recovery more efficient.
Despite the plenty of planning that has been put into making this operation possible, Rahlf has also been busy planning to maintain after the procedure a sense of normalcy for his personal life at home and professional life at school. He is a father of two boys, and he and his wife have been making arrangements to keep things normal for them. Although his wife has shown concern as the day of the operation approached, she has been accepting of the idea.
The operation, however, has been an emotional journey for Rahlf. Sometimes, he has been jokeful about it, but other times he was not as sure. If he ever had the chance to do it over again, he would want to speak right away with a donor who had been through it. For him, it was a leap of faith.
“I would be lying to you if I told you that I’m not nervous or not scared at all,” Rahlf said. “You just don’t know what’s going to happen. If I had a crystal ball and I knew that everything was going to turn out okay, well, then I wouldn’t be sweating at all. But no one has that crystal ball.”
The recovery time is estimated to last for two to three weeks, and Rahlf hopes to return to teaching April 11, the week after spring break. However, this could differ depending on his state. After the operation, he is expected to go for a 10-day check-up to evaluate his pain. This would determine if he would be able to come back early or not.
Moreover, he is expected to keep up with his continuous check-up appointments at three months, six months, a year, and two years.
(Top photo: Michael Rahlf, left, with his friend Dan Malnory. Photo courtesy of Rahlf.)