A Conversation with Father Malloy - Part 2: The need for kidney donors

There are currently 80,000 Americans waiting for life-saving kidney transplants, and on Monday former Notre Dame President Father Edward Monk Malloy is donating a kidney for a special reason.

Although he is usually not a fan of cameras, I sat down this week for a "Conversation with Father Malloy," who is now hoping to raise awareness about the urgent need for kidney donations.

Last fall, the wheels were set in motion for Father Malloy to donate a kidney to his cherished nephew.

He was not planning to make the story public, but as priests there are many "callings" in life and Father Malloy thought maybe publicizing the need for kidney donations is another one of those "callings."

After all, it is said that the Lord works in mysterious ways.

"I remember him growing up from all stages and he has always had a special role in my life."

Notre Dame President Emeritus, Father Edward "Monk" Malloy is talking about his 40-year-old nephew, Johnny Rorapaugh, the father of a teen son and a man who has been on kidney dialysis for a year and a half and needs a transplant.

Monk, as he is affectionately called by the Notre Dame faithful, has given his life the priesthood and sacrifice.

He served as president under the famed Golden Dome for 18 years. He is an author, travels worldwide on behalf of the University, and is still teaching a freshman seminar. He has even met with popes and presidents.

But after 38 years in the priesthood, Father Malloy's biggest calling yet may be saving Johnny's life.

"My sister Joanne came back and said, 'You know, we think you have the same blood type, would you entertain it?' I said sure," explains Malloy.

Johnny's sisters and nieces had already been tested and failed, so Johnny would find his match in his 67-year-old uncle, an outstanding all-sport athlete who eventually played basketball at Notre Dame. A man who is still in good enough shape to play pick-up games with students.

"Ideally, his peer group would be the source, but many of the live kidney donations are from relatives and you have to understand it's a strong motivation," says Malloy.

Motivation that took Monk to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore where he underwent days of testing.

"And I passed muster every step along the way, so here I am," he says.

He was ready to donate a kidney to his nephew on August 11, and both physically and mentally up for the challenge.

But just two weeks before surgery, the challenge changed.

Doctors at Johns Hopkins asked Malloy if he and his nephew would consider a swap.

"He said, 'There's a mother and a son; the son is in his 30s and if we could work it out so that the son gave his kidney to your nephew, he would have a much younger kidney. The mother is 61, closer in age to you and you could give the kidney to her,'" explains Malloy.

At a school where game plans are taken very seriously, this former president who taught biomedical ethics at Notre Dame in the 1970s, when some transplantations where considered controversial, had an ethical dilemma of his own.

"Now I went from being a theoretician about it to a practitioner," he says.

The "now" practitioner and Johnny decided to go ahead with the swap, believing, after all, that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

Malloy considered keeping the surgery quiet, but then felt perhaps he was getting another calling from above.

"So there is a side of me that would like to do this quietly, but then I realize there are 80,000 people out there that need a kidney right now, and if the fact that I'm involved in this procedure could motivate one more to do it, then it would be worth it," he explains.

On Monday, Malloy, his nephew and two strangers will undergo four hours of surgery. He says he is not afraid.

"It seems to me a small price to pay for, and hopefully will be very good results. Maybe the night before I'll think about it more, but I've not lost any sleep over it," says Malloy.

And this ethicist by training likens what he is doing to childbirth.

"At least from my male point of view, it is related to giving part of yourself to try and make life, at least at a higher level for the recipient," he explains. "I don't want to romanticize this, but for me there is a kind of underlying satisfaction in being able to be involved in the process of giving life."

So on Monday, if you are the praying type, why not keep Malloy, his nephew and the other family in your prayers. Certainly, a little divine intervention couldn't hurt.

Father Malloy plans to be teaching when classes begin August 25. Doctors say he should be ready to face his freshman class, which may be a breeze after donating a kidney.

We will, of course, let you know on Monday how surgery went for all involved.

To read our other stories about Fr. Malloy's kidney donation, click on the following links:

A Conversation with Father Malloy - Part 1: Donating a kidney
Fr. "Monk" Malloy leaves hospital, feels "amazingly well"

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