Notes to self…..

Well before my donation day of January 2, 2019, I came in contact with Ned Brooks and Lisa Emmott, two people who were very kind to me and supportive of what I was undertaking with my pending donation. I was then introduced to Tracey Hulick – ever heard of her?? – and my connection to Kidney Donor Athletes was hatched.

I share this with you now because I’ve come to know Ned and Lisa a bit more, and I’m SUPER excited to be part of Donor to Donor ( with them and others, spreading the news and education about kidney donation. Additionally, at the end of April, I had the greatest opportunity to get to Denver and meet Tracey and about 15 other kidney donors. A most amazing weekend indeed, one which propelled me on the path I’m currently traversing.

colorado crew2

I now know that physical and mental preparation before my donation played a huge role in my recovery – and I’m very aware that I’ve had a truly remarkable recovery. As I reflect on my time before donation and my recovery, I think this type of recovery is possible for many others as well, and as always, should you have any interest in further details I’m happy to share.

What have I been doing since my last update…….well, I’ve continued to be very mindful of what is happening in my life, the opportunities that present, and then moving with what feels right. First the physical. Just two an a half weeks ago (June 9) I summited my second Washington volcano since donation (first was Mt St Helens). Mt Adams was unreal!!!! It’s a 12-mile roundtrip, and 6,700 feet of gain. Let me just say, one epic day, and one blessed guy to be able to do this 23 weeks post-op. I had set a target of all five Washington volcanoes, so two down and three to go! Glacier Peak, coming for you next!


While in Colorado I had a couple of other awesome outings. Fellow donor Molly was very gracious and took me to Manitou Springs to tackle Manitou Incline on that Friday. The incline had been on my list for a while, and to experience that with a fellow donor was a special day!


I was also presented with some awesome gifts from another fellow donor Jen and her Rock1Kidney organization ( I’m showcasing her shirt on adventures now and in the future!

colorado crew

The following day, another fellow donor and Kidney Donor Athlete Patty came to my aid by lending me her car so I could go take on a climb I’d been salivating over for weeks leading up to my Colorado trip. I’ll be forever grateful for my Colorado friends for how I was supported during my visit, and standing on the top of my first 14er, Quandary Peak, it was an experience I will never forget. It was a 40 MPH wind howling snow blowing climb, and standing alone on the summit was a most emotional and incredible experience. I’m hooked. Completely. I now have a new goal of standing on top of the remaining 57 14ers! Maybe you’ll get a little glimpse of why Colorado is firmly on my list of a place to revisit – and soon!


As my fitness continues to improve (I’m working on regaining my endurance), I’ve set out on a couple of adventures, and put some big challenges into my 2019. On my five month anniversary, I completed my first one kidney half marathon with a bunch of running buddies. Note to self: climbing mountains is different fitness from trail running 🙂 It was a humbling run, reminding me of my first day post-op taking my first steps, but I was not going to be denied and crossed that finish line on a beautiful sunny Saturday morning in Eastern Washington. Some of these same buddies will head to Utah in early October to participate in the Grand Circle Trailfest, three consecutive days of half marathon trail running in Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Grand Canyon. Note to self #2: get some trail running training in before October!

In the spring of 2018, I went to the Grand Canyon and completed a rim-rim-rim (R3 as it’s called). That is leaving the south rim, hiking down to the Colorado River, then up to the north rim, turn around and head back to the south rim. It was a 47 mile – 17-hour adventure. I simply love all the Canyon presents, and it certainly has a zen-like influence on me every time I drop below the rim. 2019 is the 100th anniversary of Grand Canyon National Park. A big celebration indeed. 2019 is a big year for me, and what better way to celebrate than to combine some of my loves: hiking, the Grand Canyon, and kidney advocacy.

with Patty

So September 7 I will embark on the biggest physical and psychological challenge of my life. I will depart the south rim to complete another R3, but this one with a twist. When I complete the R3, my plan is to take a deep breath, then turn around and do it again. It’ll be 93 miles, about 22,000 feet of gain. I’ll need to change shirts at some point I’m sure, so I’ll sport four shirts: Donor to Donor, Rock1Kidney, Kidney Donor Athletes, and a group I just formed Pacific Northwest Kidney Crew. I know there are roughly 93,000 people on the kidney transplant waitlist, so I’m embarking on this 93-mile adventure in part to bring awareness on their behalf. I’ve mentioned to people they can help: by making a donation to Kidney Donor Athletes to continue this phenomenal program, by sharing my story to bring more awareness or come join me for any portion of that adventure! I have been graced to come in contact with fellow donor Eric who is an ultra-athlete and he was so kind to share his knowledge with me, and I’ve recently stumbled across a gentleman who has completed 100 R3s!!!! 100!!! I’ve done one and it blows my mind what he’s done. He’s become my cheerleader to accomplish my R3 double, as that was one goal which eluded him. I know on September 7 I’ll have no shortage of inspiring people running through my mind, including all those people who get up each week to go through their dialysis routine. The discomfort and diminished lifestyle they endure fuels me to help in whatever way I can.

Coming into 2019 I knew it was going to be a special year for me. I was the first donor of the year at the University of Washington, kicking off a donation chain that continues today, and I simply had this ‘deep in my soul feeling‘ and desire to immerse myself in causes that set my soul on fire. Part of this process has me moving out of my house, renting it to a local family, becoming a house sitter for the next year in the Seattle area, and freeing up time to dive into opportunities which intersect my life. In the past, I’d been anchored to my job, in part because I had a mortgage, but I talked to few people, thought outside the box, and decided to continue this 2019 trajectory of my life by truly creating the life I want to live each and every day.

This new life will surely include fitness, exploration, adventure, (oh my goodness a lot of adventure) but it’ll also include kidney advocacy among other desires.

Note to self #3: do more. These great gifts I’ve been blessed with, share them with anyone and everyone every chance I get.

You can find me on Facebook (Bobby McLaughlin) and you can find my new group on there as well (Pacific Northwest Kidney Crew I look forward to meeting more people in this ever-growing kidney community as we all try to help save as many lives as we can. I’ve had the great pleasure of speaking with about a dozen people who are considering donation, mainly due to them hearing a story – – so let’s keep sharing!!!

I’m humbled and honored to be part of this kidney community. The night before my surgery, January 1, 2019, I received a phone call from five ladies in Colorado, only one of whom I’d met, and they gave me the greatest pep talk possible. They made me feel like I was part of their family. All five being kidney donors, they promised me that all the amazing feelings I was having were only going to increase post-donation. Well, I’m here to report this: giving of my kidney was one of the great experiences in my life. It’s a gift that keeps on giving, and as I receive all I receive from my kidney family and community, I’m thrilled to be in a position, with so many other amazing kidney supporting people, to help as many of those 93,000 as we can.

bobby with the denver crew


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