Kidney donor sets off to complete second ‘Organ Trail’
For the City Times
PLOVER – Mark Scotch, 65, from Plover, once again is hitting “The Organ Trail,” cycling his way to promote kidney disease, living donor awareness, and post-donation functionality, this time with a marathon bike ride from Massachusetts to Wisconsin.
Scotch’s second Organ Trail will begin Sept. 19, in Martha’s Vineyard. From there, he’ll travel into New York City, go through upstate New York, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and come back to his hometown in central Wisconsin, arriving approximately Saturday, Oct. 16.
“The Organ Trail is all about generating awareness for the need for kidney donors, especially living kidney donors, but it’s also about showing people that even with one kidney, you can still lead a life full of activities, even if those activities are sustained and vigorous,” said Scotch.
Full details of this 1,600-mile kidney donation awareness journey can be found on Facebook at The Organ Trail. The page also features educational content about becoming a kidney donor or contributing to causes and organizations that support kidney health. Interested readers also can follow his journey on The Organ Trail blog.
About The Organ Trail
Scotch’s story began in early 2020 when he met Hugh Smith, 56, a former professional horse jockey, at Cane River Brewing in Smith’s hometown of Natchitoches, Louisiana.
Scotch learned that during his days as a jockey, Smith suffered frequent injuries. To combat the pain, he took ibuprofen for an extended period of time. This damaged his kidneys, sending him into severe renal failure in 2019 and requiring him to have daily dialysis. This also put him alongside nearly 100,000 Americans waiting for a life-saving kidney.
Just the day before, the two men had been strangers. That day, Scotch knew what he wanted to do: give one of his kidneys to Smith. Although Scotch’s kidney wasn’t a direct match for Smith, he still wanted to donate a kidney to someone who needed one. Through the National Kidney Registry Voucher Program he became a “voucher donor” where he would be matched with a recipient somewhere in the country. Once the kidney donation was complete, Scotch could also name Smith as the person he wanted to benefit, which would give the former jockey higher priority on the National Kidney Registry transplant list.
In September 2020, Scotch was matched with a compatible individual in New York and successfully donated his kidney, and in early 2021, Smith received his needed kidney from a donor in California. Hugh’s doctors are pleased with his recovery and he is looking forward to returning to work soon.
“The voucher system let me to do everything at my local hospital while Hugh went to his local hospital in Jackson, Mississippi, and gave Hugh higher priority on the transplant list,” said Scotch.
To increase kidney disease and living donor awareness, celebrate Smith, and prove that donors can return to their previous level of activity and function on a single kidney, even if that activity is sustained and vigorous, Scotch put his cycling skills to use. In early 2021, he completed his first Organ Trail, cycling 1500 miles from Madison, where he donated his kidney, to Natchitoches, where Smith and he first met.
With 3,000 new patients added monthly to the kidney waiting list, and 13 people dying every day because of a shortage of kidneys, the cyclist-turned-kidney donor plans to continue raising awareness about living kidney donation through The Organ Trail.