Mark McHugh will have one less kidney in February.
The Langford man is donating a kidney to a complete stranger – one that he may never meet.
“You get those butterflies in your stomach,” McHugh said. “It’s the waiting part where those feelings kick in. I’ve thought about it so much.”
McHugh will be undergoing surgery in Vancouver to donate a kidney under the Living Anonymous Donor (LAD) program. The idea of donating a kidney for the teacher wasn’t a quick decision, but it began nearly a year ago.
In February 2019, Mark saw a social media post from a Langford woman who was in need of a kidney. She needed someone with A positive blood. When he saw the post, he was inspired to get blood work done to see if he was a good match. After all, he wanted to help someone who was going through a health scare – something his family has experienced firsthand more than once.
In 2007, McHugh was viciously attacked by a pitbull and had to undergo 12 reconstructive surgeries to his face. Now, the scars on his face are fully healed and barely noticeable.
When McHugh’s daughter was five, she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. She beat it, but the tumour grew back when she was seven. Fast-forward and she’s fully recovered and is about to graduate from Lighthouse Christian Academy, where her dad teaches applied design skills technology classes, plus does marketing for the school.
“I thought about asking [the surgeons] for a photo or video of the surgery for teachable moments,” joked McHugh. “It’s a journey with the students as well. I’ve talked about it to my classes and we’re on this ride together.”
Weeks after blood tests were complete, McHugh found out that the woman he initially would donate to had already found another organ donor, but he wanted to continue the process.
On Dec. 24, 2019, he was given the “all-clear” and he confirmed a surgery date in early February.
With the days counting down, McHugh isn’t scared. Notably, there is a three out of 10,000 chance of death during the surgery. His determination is inspired by another teacher who received two kidney donations 22 years ago.
John Dobson’s first donated kidney was rejected by his body, but luckily the second donation worked and has been functional ever since.
“I believe God was working through all of this,” said Dobson, a Grade 5 and 6 teacher. “It’s been a huge blessing not having to be chained to the rhythm of dialysis. It was an indefinite gift and a huge blessing.”
Mark will not be able to teach for two months, but Principal Karen Daniels said they are training a temporary replacement. McHugh’s time off is taken care of by his health coverage and his expenses for travel and accommodations in Vancouver are covered by The Living Organ Donation Expense Reimbursement Program.
The only thing that’s missing is the identity of the person he’s giving his kidney too.
According to McHugh, he has to wait a year to write a letter to the recipient – and that is a day worth waiting for.