QUEENS VILLAGE — Debra Molloy and Christine Whalen first met at Our Lady of Lourdes School in Queens Village in 1980, but they weren’t classmates. Molloy was Whalen’s first grade teacher.
“He was a great teacher and taught me a lot. He definitely taught me to love school,” Whalen said. “I owe it to him.”
One of the ways Whalen is trying to pay off that debt is to find a donor for Molloy, who suffers from kidney disease and needs a new one.
“I’m so happy that Christina is doing this for me,” Molloy said. “We have such a wonderful friendship. We are no longer teachers and students.”
Whalen, who admits she had to hold back on calling her former teacher “Miss Molloy” instead of Debra, has a background in marketing and public relations and is spreading the word about Molloy on social media, asking people to get vetted. as potential donors.
He helped Molloy create a page on the National Kidney Registry website and an Instagram account. He also recently hosted a Facebook Live session where Molloy talked about his health.
“Even if you’re not a match for Debra, you can be a match for someone else,” Whalen said, explaining that if people donate their kidneys in Molloy’s name, it could help her move up the transplant list.
To date, several people have been tested, but none have been a match.
Molloy suffers from interstitial nephritis, a serious condition in which the kidney tubules become inflamed and cause problems with kidney function.
“I’m not in a critical moment,” he said. “But anything can happen. If I get COVID or the flu or something like that, it could make the kidney worse. That’s why my doctor asked me to start the process (of finding a donor).”
According to the American Kidney Foundation, there are currently more than 92,000 people on the waiting list for a kidney transplant in the United States. And people who need kidneys make up 87% of people who need organ transplants.
In 2021, a bout with pneumonia left Molloy’s kidneys failing. If he does not find a donor, he will eventually have to undergo dialysis. He explained that it is better to get a kidney from a living donor than from a dead one.
Molloy was first diagnosed in 2015. “I remember not feeling well. I thought it was just a stomach bug. I went to the emergency room, the doctor took my blood. The next morning he called me and said, “You have to go to the territory. Your kidneys are not working.” “They did various tests and it was determined that I have interstitial nephritis,” he recalls.
With medication, he has been able to live a relatively normal life for the past seven years.
Molloy relies on her Catholic faith to help her overcome it. “When I think of Jesus, I think: ‘He must be looking for me.’ I believe that it will happen,” he said, referring to the possibility of finding a donor.
Molloy taught at Our Lady of Lourdes for 37 years — the first year she taught fourth grade, then moved to first grade, where she spent the bulk of her career. He served as principal of Our Lady of Lourdes for two years until the school closed in 2018. She then took a job as a first grade teacher at Immaculate Conception Catholic Academy in Flushing, where she worked until her retirement in 2021.
Molloy, who never married or had children, considers her students like family, and she has kept in touch with many of them in recent years, mostly through Facebook. “I am happy to reconnect with many of my former students, who are now adults with children of their own,” she said.
“He keeps in touch with many of his former students both through social media and in real life. We’ve remained close friends over the years,” Whalen said. “He was the first to congratulate his children on their achievements.”
Whalen is surprised by his friend’s sense of recollection.
“He remembers the names of students from 40 years ago. “I remember telling him about a boy in my class, whose brother told him that there is no Santa Claus,” he said. “I couldn’t remember his last name, but he did.”
“I’m glad I did it because he’s not one to ask for help,” says Valen, who is happy to help Molloy find a donor.
Molloy admits to shying away from drawing attention to herself.
“I learned how to get out there because I’m not the type of person to stand there and say, ‘I need help,’ or put a notice in somebody’s car window,” she said. “It’s not me. I can’t do it. But Christine is teaching me.”
“The student is teaching the teacher a thing or two,” Molloy added.