2023 at a glance. (kinda)

2023 was a very busy and rewarding year.

It started in January with Lynn’s kidney donation at UWHealth in Madison, WI that ended a 26 month COVID related delay. Ultimately, Lynn was able to provide a National Kidney Registry voucher to 2-year-old Cooper Thompson in Minnesota, giving him highest priority on the wait list for a living kidney transplant. Lynn’s recovery went very, very, well.

Lynn’s 2 week checkup with our surgeon Dr. Mezrich, (yes, he did both of our surgeries) signing his book WHEN DEATH BECOMES LIFE for us. He is writing a 2nd one….we might be mentioned in it. 🤷
We highly recommend it.

On March 2, Cooper got his kidney! His living donor is a young woman, Ali, in the Twin Cities who decided she would altruistically donate a kidney, and happened to be an excellent match to Cooper. Cooper has had his challenges since then, but at this time is doing well and discovering what it’s like to be an active toddler. We’re blessed to have been able to see all four of the Thompsons (Eric, Katie, big sister Evelyn, and Cooper) throughout the year.

Cooper, pre-kidney donation surgery.
No more dialysis every night, all night.
Cooper, post surgery and on the move!

The 1,600 mile TOT 4.5 was exhilarating, humbling, exhausting, exciting, and emotional. It was the first time we’d gone into dialysis centers and met patients and heard their stories. It was the first time we toured an Organ Procurement Organization and saw their bereavement and recovery rooms. We talked with several Angel Moms, who lost their children but then claimed something positive from their tragedies by donating their childrens’ organs and tissue. We met transplant staff and physicians that are in the trenches every day, and we met those who are awaiting their own lifesaving transplants. We were fortunate throughout the ride to stay with family, friends, and new friends.

Media event before we left home at the Hostel Shoppe bike shop, with our local Representative Katrina Shankland and State Senator Patrick Testin.
The start.
Lubbock, Texas.
Pictured with donors, recipients, hospital, and OPO staff.
Grandson Jason and I entering Lynn County in northwest Texas on our way from Lubbock to Fort Worth/Dallas.
Lynn and I with Kelli James of Southwest Transplant Alliance (STA) in Dallas. One of the 3 Organ Procurement Organizations (OPO) in Texas that partnered with us to help create awareness. The other 2 were LifeGift and the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance (TOSA).
Lynn adding her parts.

Along our rides, we do our best to meet with locals who are trying to get their story out for their need of an organ transplant.

Ashley from the Odessa area received a deceased kidney and pancreas combination a few weeks after this video was taken.
Todd Monsen. Soon to be living kidney donor to friend Matt Shane, Waco, TX.
Matt Shane. Soon to be the recipient of Todd’s kidney.
A man at a dialysis center in Schertz, TX we visited, telling his story to local TV reporter.
Mayor of Snyder, TX presenting a proclamation on kidney donation.
With a Dallas local (center) that heard about our ride and joined in for a few miles and got to hear Pat O’Brien’s story. Pat was on dialysis at this time, coming all the way from Albuquerque, NM with his wife, Nancy, their travel trailer stuffed full of dialysis gear and supplies to join us for a few days.
Pat received a kidney from a friend of his wife Nancy a few months after this photo was taken.
Lynn and me with Nancy and Pat O’Brien after a couple of events in Dallas.
Pat and me at Medical City, Fort Worth, TX.
West Texas. Photo credit, Gemma Folsom
Photo credit: Gemma Folsom
The Message!
Road kill, Louisiana style!

We hit the peak of the Blue Bonnet bloom.
Photo credit: Michael Ortiz
With Kidney Transplant Program Chief and transplant surgeon Dr. Nicole Turgeon, Seton Medical Center, Austin, TX.
Eric Figueroa, a kidney recipient we met at St. Luke’s in Houston. Eric has quite a story and we’re discussing plans for an Organ Trail ride in his native Puerto Rico.
Made the coast, Galveston, TX
Crossed the Mississippi on a tugboat provided by Maritime Partners then proceeded on to an event at Ochsner Transplant Center, New Orleans, LA.
Linda and Tim Mullen with us at the finish. Baton Rouge, LA

Along the way, we learned of an interest by The Today Show, which turned into 4 hours of taping and interviews while we were in Louisiana and culminated in us being on the program on April 26. They knocked our socks off when they brought out first Hugh and then the Thompsons. It was the first time we met Cooper! Such a fun experience, made sweeter by having our son Nick in town with us, our niece Shanice who lives in NYC, and old and new friends from the kidney community. We also did a little sightseeing, as it was my first time in the Big Apple.

The day we left Wisconsin a TV station in Madison covered our upcoming ride. This piece caught the attention of Today Show Producer Caroline Virenius.
With the Today Show crew getting footage in Louisiana.
Lynn and Cooper meeting for the first time on the set of the Today Show.
Lynn and I with Evelyn and Cooper back stage at the Today Show.
Hugh and I on The Today Show set.
With everyone on the set of The Today Show. The Today Show did a fantastic job explaining the National Kidney Registry Voucher Program.

Home for three weeks, then off to Los Angeles for my liver donation, which happened on May 25 at USC Keck Hospital. Everything went well, and eight days later we were able to travel across town to LA Children’s Hospital to meet 9-month-old Selena and her parents. Selena is doing beautifully.

Selena before surgery.
With Selena and her parents 6 days after our transplant surgeries.
Selena is definitely keeping an eye on me!
A couple of months after surgery.
August, 3 months post surgery.
Just before Christmas.
Christmas Day

The end of June, it was back to NYC for us, for the National Kidney Registry annual Gala in recognition of living kidney donors and transplant personnel.

Our “Twin Towers” we brought home from the NKR Gala.

September was another bike ride for me, this one in conjunction with the Knights of Columbus in support of their Father Mullen’s Adoption Initiative. We used the format of The Organ Trail to create awareness with a bike ride, contact media (Jennie Heinz), and lodge with and meet locals one on one. It was an 8-day ride of 460 miles. TOT stalwarts Tim and Linda Mullen joined in again at about the halfway point (fun times!). Dave Pramann, who has also ridden with us on earlier TOT rides, rode the entire 8 days with me. His wife Mary was along for parts of the ride, with their adopted 6-year-old twins Lue and Chue, and 2-year-old Auti adding some spice.

My motivation for this ride is simply that adoption is an option to abortion that saves human lives.

Me, Tim, Dave.
Mary, Chue, Auty, Lue, Dave Pramann. Amazing people. 😊
Dave and the boys.

Then off to New York for our 3rd time this year! This trip was to Long Island, again for an organ donation function as recipients of the Heart’s for Russ Donor Family Award.

Our niece Shanice and organ recipient Jen Benson.

I headed back to Texas in early October for….you guessed it….another bike ride! Lone Star Circle of Life, an organ & tissue donation organization, invited me to be their Honorary Texan for their bi-annual awareness ride. This was also an 8-day ride, with 500+ miles logged.

Me with living kidney donors Jennifer and Todd.
Taking a break!😆
It was an EXTREMELY busy year, but so rewarding.

We don’t see 2024 being near as busy, but there will be a TOT 5.0 as we highlight the routes of Lynn’s kidney donation, with her kidney going to someone in need in Illinois and her voucher going to Cooper in Minnesota, so stay tuned.

Cooper and Selena signing off for us in 2023, see you in 2024.😊

One year old!🎉August, 3 months post surgery.

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