Stroll Through Race Expo Takes Marathon Runner Down Life-changing Path

Until last year, Robert Taylor hadn't considered being a living organ donor. But then a booth at a race expo caught his eye, leading to a new kidney for Lynn McCurdy and a new friendship for both.

Robert Taylor picked up his race packet and swag bag for the 2018 Donna Marathon and wandered through the race expo, passing familiar booths hawking shoes, socks and other goodies beloved by runners. (We're looking at you, Body Glide.) But at the expo, Robert, a seven-time Donna finisher, saw something he hadn't seen there before: a Mayo Clinic booth with information about becoming a living organ donor. He was intrigued. "I'd never thought about becoming a donor," Robert tells us. Now he couldn't shake the thought. Before he left the expo, Robert returned to the booth and registered as a potential donor.

A few states away in North Carolina, Lynn McCurdy was in a marathon of her own. When she was just 4 years old, Lynn was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. A lifetime of living with the disease had damaged her kidneys and led to a transplant when she was 48. Seven years later, doctors told Lynn that kidney was failing and she'd need a second transplant. "I went back to Mayo Clinic, hoping for another miracle," she says.

Lynn was put on the transplant list and began the difficult wait for a donor. After sharing her need with friends, family and Facebook, Lynn got an offer from a childhood friend, but testing ruled the friend out. Lynn's housekeeper also offered to donate. Though she wasn't a match for Lynn, she was approved as a donor and asked if she'd consider being part of an organ-donation chain. She agreed.

Not long after, Robert received a call from Mayo Clinic. "They told me they had a match for me, told me a little about Lynn, and asked if I'd donate," Robert recalls. His answer — as it would have been for anyone — was yes. "I could never turn anybody down. How do you say no to somebody who needs a kidney to live?"

When Lynn received the news that a stranger had offered to give her one of his kidneys, she was "just speechless," she tells us. She was still speechless a few weeks later, when Robert surprised her by walking into her hospital room to say hello just days after the transplant. "Words are so inadequate," Lynn says. "How do you say thank you to someone who has given you so much?"

Lynn had planned to say thank you wearing a new blouse, with her hair and makeup done to perfection. "I wanted to look like I was worth it," Lynn says. "I felt so inadequate to receive his gift." Robert's surprise visit left no time for dressing up, and she soon understood that none of that mattered to him. "As soon as Robert walked through my door I saw nothing but kindness," Lynn says. "It was like an angel walked in. I believe God knew what I needed and who was going to give it to me."

Robert also believes divine intervention played a role in his decision to donate. "I feel the Lord was telling me to do this," he tells us. It's a call he's hoping others will hear — and answer. "I am so thankful I had the chance to do this. And I want other people to look into donating, too. You could save a life."

Or, three. Robert's donation was the first in a chain that gave the gift of life to three people. "I'm overwhelmed to have had the opportunity," he tells us. "It's hard to put into words what it means to me."

You can hear Robert (who ran this year's Donna marathon just six months after donating his kidney) try to put the experience into words here. Then donate a comment below before using the social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.