'The Hunt for a Donor'
FRAZEE, Minn. — When lifelong Frazee resident Justin Oelfke entered his truck in the demolition derby for the 2017 Becker County Fair, he knew it might be for the last time.
"He had to get medical clearance to compete," says Oelfke's longtime girlfriend, Jamie Larson.
Though Oelfke was first diagnosed with the rare kidney disease, MPGN-2 — often referred to as "dense deposit disease," because it hinders the kidneys' ability to filter blood and produce urine, causing them to become extremely dense — almost 20 years ago, it's only been in the last six months or so that his condition has become serious.
"I was stable," he says. In fact, Oelfke was employed full-time at BTD Manufacturing in Detroit Lakes while also working toward his college degree in power sports — until his condition began deteriorating rapidly this past spring, to the point where he now requires dialysis 5 days a week.
"It's been a complete change for him," says Larson.
"I need a new kidney," adds Oelfke, who is now restricted to working part-time for Anderson Bus Company, after being forced to quit both his position at BTD and his college classes. (Larson remains employed full time at TS Recreational in Detroit Lakes).
Finding a donor is a process that can often take up to 2 years or more — but Oelfke's situation is complicated even further by the fact that he has a rare blood type, O-positive.
"The wait could be 3-5 years because of that," he says.
Oelfke also has two young children, aged 3 and 6, at home — one of whom has medical needs of her own, due to being born prematurely.
In order to help raise awareness of Oelfke's plight, and to make what could be his final derby competition a memorable one, family friend Mark Olson of Brushmarks donated his company's work to have two derby trucks fully wrapped, with one to be used by Justin and the other by his brother, Tyler.
"I've gotten my derby stickers from there for years," said Oelfke. "I went to pick up my (derby) stickers on Tuesday, and he surprised me with the news."
The trucks were formally unveiled just prior to the start of Friday's derby competition, with the announcer also calling attention to Oelfke's situation by telling a brief version of his story.
One truck was emblazoned with the words, "Hunt for a Donor," while the other was marked "Oelfke Demolition Team," in honor of Justin and his brothers Tyler and Darrin often competing together in derbies in the past.
"They even donated 25 T-shirts for us all to wear," said Larson.
"He (Olson) said he was impressed with Justin's great attitude," which is what inspired the gift.
For his part, Oelfke said he was grateful for the donation, and the fact that it has helped spread awareness of his situation.
"We would really like to thank Brushmarks, and Mark, for doing this."
Anyone who is interested in stepping forward as a potential donor, and would like to learn more, is welcome to call (701) 234-6715 and ask for Mary Beth.