Wisconsin man, Mark Scotch, is biking cross-country to raise awareness for living organ donation. He and his crew are making the 1,500-mile trip down to Louisiana to meet up with the man who inspired him to donate a kidney last year. They are starting with some 100+ mile days to get themselves south to warmer weather and spread the message of the importance of living organ donation.
Scotch, of Plover, Wisconsin met Hugh Smith at a brewery in Louisiana in early 2020 during a vacation. The two men struck up a conversation at Cane River Brewing Company in Natchitoches. Smith mentioned he needed a kidney transplant. “He said he was on dialysis and in stage five kidney failure. I just said hey, if you need one, I’ll give you one of mine. And one thing led to another, and here I am!” Scotch said. Scotch didn’t end up being a match for Smith but could donate a kidney in Smith’s honor, through the National Kidney Registry.
“So I went online, got registered. They found a match for my kidney, the best match for my kidney was in New York and that was last September 30,” Scotch said. That donation by Scotch bumped Smith to the front of the transplant waiting list and he was able to receive a new kidney from another donor in February 2021. Smith was a professional jockey for 17 years and battled with pain but didn’t know that the pain medicine he was taking would lead to kidney failure.
For a year, both men went through constant medical appointments to make sure they were okay after their surgeries. Then Scotch decided to show the world that even without a kidney, you can still live a full life. On April 24th, 2021, Scotch started The Organ Trail bike ride from Madison, WI to Natchitoches, LA. The ride ended at the same bar both men met in 2020. “This is absolutely amazing what he did, and he saved my life,” Smith says.
Scotch said “Hey if I can do it on one kidney, an old kinda fat guy, why can’t anybody consider it at least?” He said he hopes the trek generates interest so people learn more about living organ donation. He knows not everybody can be a living donor like he was but everybody can be an advocate and educate themselves. Then if the opportunity ever presents itself, maybe they can help somebody else with some good information or lead them somewhere to the National Kidney Registry or National Kidney Donation Organization.