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Wisconsin kidney donor stops in Mystic on 1,600-mile bike ride to raise donor awareness

Mystic — A kidney donor riding his bike 1,600 miles from Massachusetts to Wisconsin to raise donor awareness, a trip he calls the "Organ Trail," rode through southeastern Connecticut on Monday, the day after embarking from Martha's Vineyard on his 28-day journey.

The goals of Mark Scotch, 65, are to encourage kidney donation and show people that they can continue leading active lives after donating.

This is not Scotch's first Organ Trail: He rode from Madison, Wis., to Natchitoches, La. in the spring. Scotch said he averaged about 77 miles a day on his first trip and plans to average about 60 miles a day now.

He said after the first trip, he noticed that people he talked to were taking the first step to get evaluated, and that the ride brought hope to people on dialysis.

Riding his Salsa mountain-bike, Scotch wears a shirt that says NKR and NKDO, for National Kidney Registry and National Kidney Donation Organization.

"I don't want to preach to the choir; I don't even want to be in the church," Scotch said. "That's why I'm out in the street."

Steve Wilson, a fellow kidney donor and avid cyclist from Westchester County, N.Y., joined Scotch for part of the first Organ Trail and is joining for part of this ride. He said after his donation, he was on a bike again in two weeks.

Scotch said on some nights, he's staying with people in the transplant community, and he's staying at Wilson's place in New York two nights.

Scotch's wife, Lynn Scotch, tagged along in a car for the first Organ Trail and is doing so again. While her husband and Wilson conducted newspaper and TV interviews at Mystic River Park late Monday morning, she went to grab food from Mystic Pizza.

Scotch is scheduled to arrive back home in Plover, Wis., on Oct. 16.

"A guy goes into a bar ..." 

This all started with a visit to a Louisiana brewery in early 2020.

Mark and Lynn Scotch, who are retired, were on their way to Texas when they stopped at Cane River Brewing Co. in Natchitoches, La. He began talking to a man named Hugh Smith, learning that Smith was on dialysis and in need of a kidney.

Scotch likes to joke, "A guy goes into a bar and comes out with only one kidney."

In reality, Scotch said he wanted to give one of his kidneys to Smith and then went through extensive medical screening. He noted his sister-in-law donated a kidney more than a decade ago and "knew you could donate a kidney and live; I just didn't know how well you could live."

Scotch ended up going through the National Kidney Registry Voucher Program. This meant he could do everything from his local hospital in Wisconsin and donate to the most compatible patient, while Smith got a voucher that moved him up the transplant list.

Scotch got a match in New York last September, and Smith received a kidney from California in February. Scotch said he doesn't know who received his kidney.

In his advocacy, he stresses some statistics from the National Kidney Foundation: More than 3,000 patients are added to the kidney waiting list each month, and 13 people die each day while waiting for a kidney transplant.

e.moser@theday.com

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