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Kidney donor joins Donate Life celebration during stop on his cycling trek

Mark Scotch, 64, is riding his bicycle 1,500 miles along the Mississippi River to visit the person who inspired him to give a kidney
Credit: SSM Health St. Louis University Hospital
SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital leaders, employees and members of the transplant team, along with representatives from Mid-America Transplant and National Kidney Foundation all welcomed Mark to St. Louis in a special celebration hosted in the Healing Gardens at SLU Hospital.

ST. LOUIS — A marathon cyclist arrived in St. Louis on Friday to celebrate Donate Life Month and talk about what inspired him to donate a kidney to save a life.

Mark Scotch, 64, has completed a third of his journey, having arrived from Madison, Wis. The occasion was marked by a reception in the Healing Gardens at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital.

Scotch is pedaling his bicycle along the Mississippi River from Madison to Louisiana, about 1,500 miles, on what he calls “The Organ Trail” to visit the person who inspired him to donate his kidney – Hugh Smith, 56.

They met in early 2020 when Scotch was visiting Louisiana. After chatting for an hour and hearing how Smith had to be on dialysis 10 hours every night after he went into renal failure in 2019, Scotch knew he wanted to donate his kidney to his new friend.

Although Scotch did not end up being a match for Smith, he was able to provide his kidney through the "Voucher Donor" program. His kidney was provided to a compatible recipient in New York in honor of Smith, which then put Smith higher on the transplant waiting list. 

Scotch successfully donated his kidney in September 2020, and Smith received his new kidney from another donor in February 2021.

In two weeks, they plan to see each other for the first time since their operations as Scotch completes the 1,500-mile, three-week journey to raise awareness around living kidney donation.

Scotch’s arrival in St. Louis marked 500 miles, or a third of his journey. On Sunday, Scotch will begin the next leg of his trip and head to Chester, Ill.

Speakers for the Donate Life Month gathering at SSM Health SLU Hospital:

  • Steven Scott, SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital president
  • Dr. Krista Lentine, medical director of living donation at SLU Hospital
  • Sara Danner, community engagement coordinator at Mid-America Transplant.
  • Kourtney Ilbery, development manager at National Kidney Foundation.
  • Mark Scotch, 64, from Madison, Wis. (kidney donor, marathon cyclist)
  • Dr. Mai Vo, SLUCare nephrologist at SLU Hospital