Winner of USA Today’s 2021 Best of Humankind Awards, 66-year-old Mark Scotch, termed the phrase “Organ Trail” to describe his cycling journey he started to raise awareness about living organ donation.
Scotch’s fourth trail began in March. He rode his bicycle approximately 1,360 miles from San Diego to Los Angeles, then east to Phoenix, Arizona, onto Albuquerque, New Mexico, and returning to Lubbock, Texas three weeks later on April 11th.
Scotch retired from a career of selling diagnostic equipment in the paper mill industry. One weekend, by chance he met Hugh Smith, a 56-year-old former professional horse jockey in Hugh’s hometown of Natchitoches, Louisiana. Both men, by all accounts, are gregarious individuals described as two “guys who never met a stranger.” Hours of conversation revealed Smith needed a kidney transplant and Scotch decided to find out if he could help. He learned he wasn’t a match for Hugh, however he did join a kidney match program facilitated by the National Kidney Registry which ultimately benefited his new friend, Hugh.
Joining the National Kidney Registry program educated Scotch about the needs of kidney and liver transplant patients and how living donors could meet that need.
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In an interview with television station KBCD in Scotch’s hometown of Lubbock, Texas, he said, “It wouldn’t take that many people to wipe out the wait list. Right now there are between 95 and 100,000 people waiting for a kidney. You do the math. If we filled one football stadium every year, once, that’s all it would take every year. You can donate a kidney, quite possibly save someone’s life, and go back to your normal lifestyle whatever that may be.”
According to UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing), in 2021 more than 6,500 people became living organ donors. Kidney and liver patients make up the majority of patients waiting to be transplanted.
On his cycling journey, Scotch shares information with people he meets, “If 10-15 out of every 10,000 people would become a living donor, we could eradicate the waiting list immediately. Living donated kidneys last approximately twice as long as deceased donated kidneys, thereby reducing the amount of kidneys needed and the amount of times a recipient needs to go through the procedure during the course of their lifetime.” And most importantly, “One does NOT have to have a recipient in mind to be a living donor.”
The steps to becoming a living donor is not complicated: (1) Contact a transplant hospital; (2) Have an initial screening; and (3) Get an independent donor advocate. Get all the details at UNOS.
Scotch has plans to continue his bike rides on The Organ Trail — spreading the word about the life healing, lifesaving, act of kindness a living donor can give to someone in need.
Anyone can register to become an organ donor at RegisterMe.org. Living donors and organ recipients can contact National Foundation for Transplants when they need help raising funds for out-of-pocket transplant-related expenses. We exist to help transplant patients through their most difficult times get to their most wonderful times. You can support their transplant journey with a financial gift.