Cycling the Organ Trail
Kidney donor bikes 1,600 miles
By John Faucher
When Mark Scotch gets on his mountain bike to go for a ride, he means business.
The recently retired 65 year-old from Plover is on a mission to raise kidney donor awareness.
Earlier this year, Scotch donated one of his kidneys through the National Kidney Donation Organization.
Scotch stopped off at New London and Manawa Friday, Oct. 15, on his way back to Plover from a 1,600 mile ride that he calls “The Organ Trail.”
“The Organ Trail is all about generating awareness for the need for kidney donors, especially living kidney donors,” said Scotch.
There are currently 100,791 people in the United States currently waiting for a kidney.
“Thirteen people die every day on the waiting list,” said Scotch, shaking his head.
The waiting list keeps getting longer with 3,150 new kidney patients being added every month.
Scotch’s own awareness of the need for donors began in early 2020 when he met Hugh Smith, in Natchitoches, Louisiana.
Smith, 56, is a former professional horse jockey who suffered frequent injuries during his career. To combat the pain Smith took ibuprofen for extended periods of time.
This damaged his kidneys and sent him into severe renal failure in 2019.
When he met Scotch, Smith required daily dialysis to survive.
After some conversation between the two strangers at the Cane River Brewing Company, Scotch said he was convinced he was going to donate.
Smith didn’t take him seriously at first and jokingly said, “That’s the beer talking.”
The next day Scotch followed up with a text message to Smith requesting his coordinator’s information.
That’s when Smith knew Mark Scotch meant business.
Smith later told a reporter, “God put us in a position to meet each other and it was just inevitable that we were going to be a match.”
It turns out they were not a match.
That did not stop Scotch.
He learned about the National Kidney Registry Program and signed up to become a “voucher donor.”
Through the voucher donor program, donors are matched with a recipient in the United States and given a voucher allowing them to name a person they want to benefit.
Scotch chose Smith, which gave the former jockey higher priority on the National Kidney Registry transplant list.
When a match was found for Scotch’s kidney he was able to schedule a time at a hospital of his choice for donating the organ.
On the other end of the equation, the recipient schedules their surgery to receive the organ at the hospital of their choice.
“You see people all the time on social media who either know someone or are looking to find a match for a friend who needs a kidney. That’s not true anymore,” said Scotch.
Thanks to the National Kidney Registry Voucher Program, “All they need is someone who’s willing to donate.”
Not long after Scotch’s kidney went to a recipient in New York, Smith received his voucher and a kidney from a matching donor in California.
Both Scotch and Smith made full recoveries from their surgeries. Smith is healthy and back to work, and Scotch, well, he’s on a roll.
After his surgery, Scotch completed his first Organ Trail, cycling 1,500 miles from Madison to Natchitoches.
During the ride he shared his story with hundreds to increase kidney disease and living donor awareness.
On his most recent trip from Martha’s Vineyard through New York City, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, Scotch was interviewed by 70 different newspapers, television stations and media outlets.
He has also appeared as a guest speaker at several schools during his 1,600-mile journey.
Scotch often jokes around and says, “If an old fat guy like me can ride a bike this far with one kidney, you know, there’s proof we can go back to our own life.”
The second part of Scotch’s journey is 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.
“I’m also trying to prove that once you give, or become a donor, nothing in your life has to change,” said Scotch.
“A lot of people don’t know this, but one in 750 people are born with only one kidney,” said Scotch.
“You don’t need them both to live.”
More information on the Organ Trail and living kidney donation can be found at NKDO-The Organ Trail.
Kidney Share in Plover
Mark Scotch and his wife Lynn will present a slide show focused on the Organ Trail and his kidney donation journey from 2-4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30, at O’so Brewing Company in Plover
Several other speakers will also share their kidney donor stories during the event.
The event is free and aimed at heightening awareness about the donor shortage, and educating the public about the importance of kidney health and maintenance.
O’so Brewing is located at 1800 Plover Road, Plover.