Ms. Lori Steele, Community Educator for the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency, gave the Natchitoches Parish Journal an alarming number – 2,000. That is the number of our fellow Louisianans who are on the waitlist to receive a lifesaving organ transplant. Of those 2,000, 1,700 are awaiting a kidney transplant. Sadly, many of the people on the transplant list will die waiting.
Friday, May 21, was a celebration of one man who beat those odds, the man who became a living donor in order to move him up the list, an auspicious chance meeting at a local brewery and of a remarkable 1,500-mile bicycle ride by the donor to promote organ donations. It was a celebration of life!
Natchitoches resident Hugh Smith was on the transplant list awaiting a kidney that matched his genetic factors to become available. Mark Scotch of Madison, Wisconsin was visiting Natchitoches with his wife. The two were not related and had never met before. On February 28, 2020 both their lives were to change. The two men were at a local brewery and struck up a conversation. A friendship developed that led Mr. Scotch to begin the process of becoming a “Living Donor.” A living donor is a person who donates a kidney to another person in need. The two men were not a match, but Mark Scotch’s donation in Hugh Smith’s name moved him to the top of the list should a compatible organ become available. Mr. Scotch’s kidney went to a person in New York.
After both men had their operations, Mark Scotch, an athlete who regularly participates in endurance sports, was not content to stop after his remarkably altruistic action and decided that there was more, he could do. The “Organ Trail” was born. He rode his bicycle on a 1,500-mile journey from his home in Madison, WI to Natchitoches Louisiana with his wife driving a support vehicle. Along the way, he and his wife never missed an opportunity to tell his and Hugh’s story and to promote awareness of organ donation, having 1to 2 media events each day. His arrival at St. Louis was part of the Grand Opening of the University of St. Louis transplant center.
Mark and his wife made it to Natchitoches on May 17. He took some time to rest and has been enjoying the local attractions. On the 21st, he and Hugh were joined by family and well-wishers for a celebration. Natchitoches Mayor Ronnie Williams presented the men with a proclamation declaring the day “Official Kidney Health and Living Donor Awareness Day in Natchitoches, Louisiana.”
The Natchitoches Parish Journal wishes all the best to Hugh Smith and Mark Scotch in their future endeavors. The photo album is unlocked. All we ask is for you to take a look at your driver’s license. If it does not say “organ donor,” please consider changing it. Not everyone can be a living donor, but we all can give the gift of life to those left behind when we are called home.