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Cyclist donates kidney to a complete stranger and then sets off to complete ‘Organ Trail’

[June 24, 2021: Emerson Lehmann]

When Mark Scotch heard that a stranger he met at a microbrewery in Louisiana needed a kidney, he didn’t hesitate to offer up one of his own. Unfortunately, the two were not a match.

Then, a lifeline for Scotch’s new friend, Hugh Smith.

“We used what’s called the voucher system,” said Scotch. “That allowed me to do everything at my local hospital and he went to Jackson, Mississippi, his local hospital.”

Scotch’s kidney was sent to a recipient in New York while Smith in turn received a kidney transplant from California in early 2021. With Smith now on the mend and recovering nicely from surgery, according to Scotch, Mark is ready to put the finishing stamp on what has been a remarkable journey; a 3-week bike ride from UW Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin to Hugh’s hometown of Natchitoches, Louisiana.

“I’m pretty excited,” said Scotch as he packed the support car that his wife, Lynn, will follow him with along the way. “I hope I can ride the distance that I said I could.”


The trek, one that Scotch has dubbed ‘The Organ Trail,’ is a mission more than a trip.

“What we’re really trying to do is just share what we’ve learned to try and develop a curiosity in people to try to learn more about organ and, specifically, living kidney donations,” Scotch explained. “We’re encouraging people to be an advocate.”

Scotch is leading by example. While on the planned 3-week ride south, Mark plans to make stops at microbreweries and businesses along the way, advocating for live organ donations at each stop with the help of friends and family that plan to join him on different legs of the trip.

He knows it won’t be easy, adding that the difference that can be made is worth the effort.

“I hope our effort is successful,” Scotch said. “That could mean successful next week or ten years from now. You never know how people learn about this and how it affects their life and when they decide to do something if they choose to.”


The plan is for Scotch to arrive in Natchitoches by May 15 with a celebration planned for May 21 at the microbrewery where Mark and Hugh first met. At completion, Scotch will have biked over 1,400 miles, praising his wife and supporters for making it possible.

“Without Lynn’s support, I don’t think this would be happening,” Scotch added. “It’s fantastic that she’s joining me and some of our friends will be joining us along the way as well.”

When asked what would make the trip a success for him, Scotch’s answer was simple.

“Just saving one more life.”

If you’re interested in signing up to be a live kidney donor, you can visit the National Kidney Donor Organization’s website for more information.

To follow Mark Scotch’s journey to Louisiana, ‘Like’ The Organ Trail on Facebook.


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