Marathon bicyclist who gave kidney highlights need for living donors

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 2 October 2021 at 9:18 am

Orleans Community Health shares organ donor stories of local residents

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Jessica Capurso, director of marketing and outreach at Orleans Community Health, chats with Mark Scotch, a kidney donor and marathon cyclist, prior to a reception in his honor Thursday morning at Lake Plains Dialysis in Medina. Scotch is biking from Martha’s Vineyard to Wisconsin to bring awareness of the importance of becoming an organ donor.

MEDINA – A marathon cyclist who is biking from Martha’s Vineyard to his home in Wisconsin was welcomed at a reception Thursday morning at Orleans Community Health’s Lake Plains Dialysis.

Mark Scotch of Plover, Wis. is making the ride to create awareness of the importance of becoming a kidney donor and to show that a person can live a normal live with one kidney.

Thursday was also the one-year anniversary of the day Scotch donated a kidney.

“We are so grateful to Mark Scotch for choosing to stop in Medina on his 1,700-mile journey along the ‘Organ Trail,’ said Marc Shurtz, CEO and president of Orleans Community Health.

Shurtz issued a special thank you to the Hart House Hotel and Zambistro’s for providing accommodations to Scotch and his wife during their stay in Medina.

Shurtz continued to say this also happens to be the 25th anniversary of the dialysis center in Medina. Orleans Community Health also runs a dialysis center in Batavia.

“Between our two dialysis centers,  we provide more than 112 patients with a combined 15,000 treatments each year,” Shurtz said. “Each patient visits our centers an average of 156 times per year. Think about how a new kidney could help these patients live a more normal life.”

Scotch, 65, then stepped up to the microphone to relate how he became a kidney donor, while stressing that a person can live a normal life with one healthy kidney.

“I met a guy in Texas who said, ‘I need a kidney.’ I said, ‘I can give you one.’ I had a sister-in-law who had donated a kidney so I knew you could live a normal life with just one. My biggest concern was if I could ride a bike.”

Scotch said his surgery was scheduled for 6:30 a.m. and he was out of the hospital the next day. The procedure was done laparoscopically and he just had weight restrictions of six to eight pounds for a couple of weeks.

This is Scotch’s second marathon bike trip this year, having ridden 1,500 miles in May from Madison, Wis., the home of his transplant center, to Natchitoches, La., home of his recipient via a voucher donation. On this trip, he is following the towpath as much as possible, he said. He usually averages 60 to 65 miles a day.

Photo courtesy of Orleans Community Health: From left, Orleans Community Health CEO Marc Shurtz, dialysis center social worker Ellen Tynan, National Kidney Registry coach Leesa Thompson, marathon biker and kidney donor Mark Scotch and Lake Plains Dialysis director Laurie Joslyn pose in front of the dialysis center after a reception honoring Scotch Thursday morning.

Scotch told how the National Kidney Registry is trying to remove barriers to kidney donation. He explained about the kidney voucher program, which allows a living kidney donor to choose the most convenient time frame for their kidney donation surgery and provide one or more vouchers to people who can then be prioritized to receive a living donor kidney through the National Kidney Registry if/when they need a transplant.

With the voucher program, a donor does not have to be a match for a specific person. Anyone can donate to anyone, any time, Scotch said.

He said his wife Lynn, who is accompanying him in their vehicle, is going to become a donor, as well.

Also speaking were Laurie Joslyn, director of the dialysis centers in Medina and Batavia; Jessica Capurso, director of marketing and outreach at Community Partners; Heather Smith, OCH Foundation director; and Mike Sidari, mayor of Medina.

Joslyn shared how she has witnessed kidney donation change the lives of her patients. She has been at Lake Plains for 19 years and said this unit has seen 70 transplants completed.

Capurso related a story from a local kidney donor named Sheri Dent, who will observe the two-year anniversary of her donation on Nov. 14. Her story is as follows:

“Our journey is hard for me to believe, as it started one afternoon in March of 2019 as I walked to church in Lyndonville to donate blood. I said to the lady that I didn’t know my blood type. She said they would mail me my blood type card. When it arrived I found I helped save three lives with my blood type, and that I am ‘O’ positive.

“That May, over Memorial Day weekend, I was at a cookout with family. Through conversation with my future daughter-in-law, I found out her mom has been on the kidney transplant list for four years. I said to Molly, ‘Let’s get this done.’ I had kept myself pretty healthy over the years and I told her I would give her mom a kidney. Her mouth dropped and she asked if I was kidding. I told her no and asked where did I get started. My Monday morning I was on the phone with the kidney organization.

“I passed the interview and waited for the next out of many that I had to go through. On June 20, the same day as my recipient’s birthday, I got a call that my blood work looked awesome and I could go on to the next step. The best step happened when I was mowing and I asked god if I was doing the right thing and we were both going to be OK. ‘Please show me a deer on this property.’ Within two minutes a baby fawn scurried out of the hedgerow. I looked up with watery eyes and said, ‘I got this. Thank you.’ On Sept. 23, my birthday, we got the phone call telling us we were a match and to set up a date. We chose Nov. 14, 2019.

“My recipient is a midwife. To save her life just as she has brought and saved many babies and mama’s lives was so heartwarming. We are both doing great. We are now in-laws and share a 1-year-old granddaughter. The team at Strong said it was so unusual to see a perfect match between two people from the same small town that are not blood relatives. I still can’t believe I said, ‘Let’s get this done’ and we actually got it done.”

Medina Mayor Mike Sidari presents a proclamation to Lake Plains Dialysis during a reception Thursday morning in honor of marathon biker and kidney donor Mark Scotch of Wisconsin. Sidari said the dialysis center was critical in keeping his father alive.

The story Smith shared is that of Sara Secore, a 25-year-old mother who is in need of a kidney.

“I am 25 years old and have been battling chronic kidney disease for a little over two years now. The summer of 2019 I started having high blood pressure, dizziness and water retention. Fast forward to September when I was hospitalized in Lockport. Unfortunately, nothing would work to improve my symptoms, so they had to place a catheter in my chest to start hemo-dialysis.

“The next day I was transferred to Buffalo General Hospital to start my dialysis treatments. A ‘couple day stay’ turned into nearly two weeks. After a kidney biopsy and multiple treatments, the doctor diagnosed me as ‘nephrotic with unspecified morpholic changes.’ My life was changed from that moment on.

“Starting Oct. 18, 2019, I was doing in-center dialysis treatments three times a week, four hours a day. I had constant complications with the catheter, resulting in at least three different placements in my chest. Then I started peritoneal dialysis (a tube being placed in my abdominal area for a more safer and better form of dialysis that I do every day of the week.

“This has not been easy for me. I’ve lost more than 60 pounds and my body is very weak. I miss out on every day activities with my 3-year-old son. Sadly, I’ve since been diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy, a condition where my face becomes paralyzed. Having to go through all this in a short time at a young age has definitely taken a toll on me, but I still try to make the best of it. My greatest hope is to have a kidney transplant someday soon.

“I miss the feeling of being healthy, being able to do things on my own, being able to work or even just enjoy life. I’m praying there is someone out there with an ‘O’ positive blood type that could donate their kidney to give me another chance at life.”

A local candidate waiting for a transplant named Belinda, 52, shared her story of needing a kidney donor.

“I’ve been on the transplant list for five years,” she said. “Thank God for dialysis or I would have died in 2015. “I’m waiting for the Lord to bless me with the opportunity to come and get my kidney.”

The next speaker was Sidari, who fought back tears as he told how his late father had dialysis at Lake Plains.

“This building kept my father alive,” Sidari said. He then read a proclamation from the village, in which he told 3,000 American citizens are on the transplant list, and 131 people died each day waiting for a donor.

Also offering her comments on living as recipient of a kidney was Leesa Thompson, administrator for Move More with Friends, NKR microsite coach, environmental activist and district leader for the CDC. Thompson told how she was not a candidate for dialysis and got a kidney three years ago, after which she herniated. She talked from a sitting position on the pavement, saying when she stands her blood pressure soars.

Scotch left Medina Thursday morning, enroute to ECMC, which is a transplant center in Western New York, along with Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.