By Ruth Ann Ruiz
The Post Newspaper Features Editor
John 15:13, Greater love hath no man than this than he lay down his life for his friend. This scripture is so often attributed to someone who loses their life to save another’s or is sited as an example of a soldier or first responder’s dedication to serving and protecting society and nations.
Thanks to modern medicine, a person can give a part of their life to save another human and continue their own life’s journey. Living Kidney donors is happening across the nation. Friends and family have been sharing their kidneys with their loved ones and strangers are giving part of their flesh and blood to save the lives of strangers.
Hailing from Wisconsin, after retirement Lyn and Mark Scotch took to the road during the winter and began to enjoy our expansive nation in warmer climates. Lyn and Mark Scotch heard the call to save a man’s life while they were on one of their winter getaways.
It was February 2020, and at the end of one of their exploration days — while sitting in a watering hole in Louisiana — Mark knew he was called to be a live kidney donor.
“I was talking to this guy named Hugh who said he needed a kidney, and I thought right away, ‘hey I can do that.’ My sister-in-law had been a living donor 11 years earlier so I knew I could do it,” said Mark.
Hugh and Mark continued to chat, and Mark learned of the National Kidney Voucher Program.
The Scotches pulled out of Louisiana and headed on to their next winter stop with their camper in tow. They got as far as Arizona in March 2020 and campsites were closing, so they headed back home to Wisconsin.
Tragedy was waiting for them when they got home. Mark’s mom had been diagnosed with COVID-19 in her assisted living center. “They told us only one family member could go in and visit her just one time,” explained Mark.
Mark went in and stayed till the staff were all going off shift; they suggested it was time for him to leave, but he insisted he was entitled to his one visit and there was no time limit on that visit. He stayed with his mom for five days till she passed.
“While I was with her, I got a little nervous thinking maybe I wouldn’t be able to be a kidney donor,” shared Mark. (His concerns centered around his exposure to COVID)
After his mom passed, he was ready for his physical and psychological examination with the national Kidney Registry Donor Program. He passed all the exams and was accepted as a living donor.
September 2020 with the pandemic raging on, and he was admitted to a hospital in Wisconsin where one of his kidneys was removed. His actual kidney went to someone in New York who was the best match for Mark’s kidney.
Because of Mark’s donor Kidney, Hugh — the guy he met in Louisiana– was moved up on the waiting list and he eventually received his own kidney from a donor that closely matched his body.
With donating a kidney, you would think Mark would feel proud and be done with the subject. But Mark decided to do more. After hearing that 13 people die each day waiting for a kidney, he and his wife Lyn began brining awareness to people across the nation about the options of becoming a living kidney donor.
The two of them cross the country stopping and sharing their story with media outlets and other people along their journey. Mark rides a mountain bike on backroads and trails with Lyn coming along in a vehicle with four wheels. He averages about 65 miles a day.
So far, the two of them have made four treks, which they call Organ Trail. They took a breather from their efforts to raise awareness and stopped for some much-needed vacation time in Galveston where they enjoyed seafood dinning and stepping outside of their hotel to experience the great waves and breezes of the Gulf.
Before they left Wisconsin, Lyn had passed her evaluations and undergone surgery to remove one of her healthy kidneys. The kidney removed from her body was given to someone in Illinois.
Prior to her surgery she had selected 2-year-old Cooper as the person she was donating her kidney for. This meant he would move up on the list and receive a kidney that best matched his body. On March 2, 2023, Little Cooper received a new kidney and is recovering from the long surgery.
Cooper had been on dialysis since he was just 8 months old. Without a kidney transplant, his life may not have had a chance to go on much further. Now, because of a living kidney donor, Cooper has a chance to grow up enjoy being a normal kid.
If you would like to keep up with Cooper you can find him on Facebook, where his mother posts daily about his progress. Look for; I’m Awesome, It’s My Kidneys That Suck-Coopers journey through CKD.
Mark and Lyn believe in being living donors, but they don’t tell people what to do. “It’s a very personal decision and isn’t something everyone should do. We try to raise awareness about living donor options,” said both Mark and Lyn.
Being a living donor does have risks as all surgery has risks and there are occasional post-surgery complications for the donors. Recovery time is dependent on the individual donor. It’s a decision that requires a lot of exploration, prayer, and meditation.
Mark believes in being a living donor so much he plans to have a sliver of his liver taken out to be used for someone in need. Livers can replicate so a sliver can grow to be what the receiving body will need.
They will begin their fifth Organ Trail to raise awareness on this Thursday, March 9 in Lubbock. Their route will take them to Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Houston, back to Galveston, over to New Orleans and then to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. All along the way they will be sharing their story and the stories of the many people they have met and who need a kidney.
It was just a friendly conversation with a stranger in a bar far away from their hometown that Mark and Lyn heard their calling for this portion of their life’s journey.
If you would like to know more about the National Kidney Registry, please scan the QR code.