NATCHITOCHES, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A Wisconsin man completed a 1,500-mile bicycle ride from Madison, Wisconsin to Natchitoches Monday to meet the man whose life he helped save by donating a kidney to another stranger in his name.

Hugh Smith was on the waiting list since 2019 to receive a kidney transplant, spending 10 hours a day on dialysis. He recently got the call that his name was bumped up, thanks to a generous organ donation from Mark Scotch to a person in New York. That donation allowed Smith to be moved up on the transplant list – a process that might otherwise have taken years.

The two men met by coincidence last year at Cane River Brewing in Natchitoches. Their quickly-formed friendship resulted in Mark donating his kidney through a voucher donor program through the National Kidney Donation Organization.

“You know, once I actually found out that Mark was going to donate in my name and actually got the ball rolling and things really took off and things started to transpire, everything just kind of fell into place. And, you know, if you don’t believe that that is God-sent, then I really don’t know what to say,” Smith said.

Smith received his new kidney in March.

Not only did Scotch donate a kidney, but he went the extra 1,500 miles by traveling from his home in Wisconsin along the Mississippi River to Smith’s home in Louisiana to celebrate the donation that will forever link the two men together and raise awareness about kidney health and living donor awareness.

The journey is chronicled in Scotch’s online “The Organ Trail” blog and Facebook page.

Along the way, Scotch hopes to remind the public that nearly 110,000 people are currently waiting for life-saving kidney transplants. Each month, 3,000 new patients are added to the kidney waiting list and 13 people die every day due to a lack of available organ donations.

Scotch hopes to inspire others to give and know that they can still lead healthy, active lifestyles, but also as a message for those who are still waiting.

“Just don’t lose hope.”

According to the Louisiana Organ Procurement agency, more than 2,000 people are awaiting lifesaving donations statewide in Louisiana.