Mukilteo man aims to raise kidney shortage awareness

Bobby McLaughlin will donate Jan. 2
By Brandon Gustafson | Nov 14, 2018
Courtesy of: Bobby McLaughlin Bobby McLaughlin and his two children. McLaughlin will be donating a kidney on Jan. 2, and said his son and daughter have been fully supportive.

Over 20 people die each day while awaiting a kidney transplant. More than 114,000 people in the United States are on the national transplant waiting list for a new kidney. And every 10 minutes, another person is added to that wait list.

Bobby McLaughlin, a Mukilteo resident for the last 24 years, can only donate one of his kidneys, but after his donation day of Jan. 2, 2019, he’s going to stay involved to reduce the number of people on that waiting list.

“How can we get the word out so that number is zero?” he said. “This country is littered with examples of things that we thought were never going to happen, that did happen because of hard work and determination.”

McLaughlin’s journey to being a kidney donor, as well as an activist for increasing kidney awareness, started strangely enough with a bike ride.

McLaughlin has never before donated anything from his body to medicine prior to his upcoming surgery.

“Not even one drop of blood,” he said.

But a few years ago, he was in a bike crash that required surgery, which included donor tissue.

“They (doctors) didn’t really talk about it pre-surgery. It really grabbed my attention,” McLaughlin said. “I received something that allows me to be fully functioning again. I’m back to normal because of the giving of someone else.”

McLaughlin said breaking his wrist was really eye opening, in that it turned a negative into a huge positive.

“I thought having a broken wrist was bad, but it started this whole process for me,” he said. “In life, what we think isn’t good can turn into something amazing.”

Additionally, McLaughlin’s mother had battled cancer multiple times, and had received blood transfusions as well.

After his surgery, he talked to a friend who had received a donated kidney.

“Hearing from her sort of sealed the deal for me. Receiving something life-changing like a new kidney, that has a massive impact on their families and friends,” he said. “This all very quickly became something I really wanted to do.”

To get his donation process started, McLaughlin went down to the University of Washington where he underwent testing to see if he was a qualified donor.

“It’s a very rigorous deal. It was 14 hours of all sorts of testing,” he said. “They check everything. But a little while afterwards, they got back to me and gave me their approval.”

McLaughlin said his experience with the team of doctors, nurses, and specialists he has worked with at the UW has been great.

“I can’t even describe the immense appreciation of how they do what they do,” he said. “It was awesome to go 14 hours with their team and seeing what they do and how they do it.”

When he decided he was going to donate, the first people he told were his two kids.

“I ran the idea by them first, and they’re awesome and have been fully supportive,” McLaughlin said. “It didn’t really hit me until I talked to them. This will be a positive impact on their lives as well.”

He also talked to his siblings and parents, who were also supportive, but a bit more inquisitive.

“They had more questions,” McLaughlin said, laughing. “But it was more for education purposes. I was just explaining to them what it means to me and my life, and they were also fully supportive.”

In the lead-up to his surgery, McLaughlin has been in contact with various outreach groups and nonprofits.

“A social worker connected me with a gal who donated her kidney,” he said. “We connected and had some great conversations about ways to get involved in educating the public and increasing awareness.”

McLaughlin also participated with a kidney support group at UW, which talked about many of the same things.

“Through all of this I’ve gotten connected to different foundations and people across the country,” he said. “I’m really just getting introduced at this point, but it’s endless what people can do to help out.

“I know I’ll stay involved with all of this after the surgery.”

Despite the surgery date fast approaching, McLaughlin said his day-to-day life hasn’t changed too much.

“In the lead-up to it, since I got their ‘stamp of approval,’ I’m doing all the same things that landed me in that zone as far as diet and exercise,” he said. “There will be some restrictions in the last month leading up to it as far as supplements and activity.”

McLaughlin has also come across a nonprofit started by a woman from Colorado called “Kidney Donor Athletes” that has helped him tremendously.

“She wanted to find as much information as she could about athletes post-op,” McLaughlin said. “It didn’t affect them too much, and she started this nonprofit. Based on what I’ve seen, I’m trying to amp up what I’m doing physically to ease my recovery.”

McLaughlin said he loves helping people, and is excited to be a part of this new community he has found and immersed himself in. He plans on assisting different organizations and outreach programs after his surgery.

“Being a part of something bigger than myself, it drives me to help in whatever ways I can,” he said.

McLaughlin is a non-directed donor, meaning he isn’t sure who his kidney will be going to, but he is extremely excited for whoever that person is.

“How awesome for the recipient, starting 2019 with a new kidney,” he said, smiling.

If you would like to learn more about McLaughlin’s journey or are interested in kidney donations, follow him on Instagram @fourseasonadventures, or email him at



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