April is National Donate Life Month. It is a month reserved to focus on the selfless acts of individuals who choose to donate life-saving organs, eye, tissue, marrow or blood to those who need it. It is a month to encourage and inspire more people to follow their example.
Meet one of our Trailblazers, Scott La Point. Scott is a cyclist. He is a journalist turned psychologist. Scott has a best friend named Jim Eastman. They are like brothers. You might say their meeting was a silver lining as they became acquaintances through a Traumatic Brain Injury support group. Both Scott and Jim had suffered TBIs. Scott was struck by a truck while cycling and thrown 72 feet, Jim was in a bad rollover car accident. But they didn’t become fast friends until Scott did the most selfless thing anyone could do for a person. He donated his kidney to Jim, who at the time was merely an acquaintance.
One day Scott was attending a support group for survivors of brain injury and saw Jim’s wife’s car. On the back, it said, “HUSBAND NEEDS KIDNEY.” Without hesitation, Scott volunteered to give one of his to Jim. It’s obviously not that simple as they went through extensive testing to confirm Scott was a match for Jim (as family members and almost a dozen others had before.) But this time it was different. Scott was a match!
In 2017, they went through with the organ transplant. Both recipient and donor are fine but now they have formed a bond stronger than before. The duo is now training together for the Transplant Games of America (it’s like the Olympics but for recipients and donors of organ transplants).
We pinned down Scott to kindly answer some questions for us and he provided some additional resources on organ donation and TBI (provided at the end).
TW: When did you first get into cycling and how did you discover the sport?
I got into cycling in 1989 while living in New York City and working as a bicycle messenger. It wasn’t long before I began racing (United States Cycling Federation) and climbed the ranks up to Category 3. I placed in several races and won only one, but it was the team aspect of cycling that I really enjoyed.
TW: How is cycling different before and after your accident?
It’s different now because I simply ride to live, to stay healthy and because I love cycling and honoring God with this. Before my injury, I was focused solely on Me, Myself, and I, and all I wanted to do was win and beat others. Now, I try to raise awareness about organ donation and the importance of wearing a helmet to protect against brain injury. And now with only one kidney, while I don’t have as much endurance, that I can still ride after all I’ve been through, is a real testament to God and his love and mercy toward me.
TW: You met Jim Eastman through a TBI support group. Were you guys fast friends right away?
Well, I have met literally thousands of people since my brain injury, and Jim was just one of many acquaintances, but we didn’t become friends until around the time I found out he needed a kidney. Now, we like to say that we’re “brothers from another mother,” and we continue to facilitate a brain injury support group and advocate for organ donation. I have to say that sustaining at TBI is the best thing that ever happened to me, because it gave me an opportunity to surrender my life to God and to try to love others more than myself. And as for Jim, we truly are best friends, and he even has taken me on as one of his brothers (he has four others who are still living).
TW: What went through your head when you saw the sign on the back of your friend Jim Eastman’s wife’s car that said, “HUSBAND NEEDS KIDNEY”?
I wasn’t thinking, and what came out of me just was merely an instinct. When I said, “Jesus gave his life for me, I can give you a kidney,” I wasn’t thinking about what it would take to donate or the testing that would be required. All I was thinking about was here was a person with a brain injury who needed some help, and I figured who better than me.
TW: You said you were a journalist and now you are a psychologist? What made you decide to change careers?
It was only because of my TBI that I made the switch from journalism to first counseling and then psychology. I knew that I wanted to work with other survivors of brain injury after surviving my own, and so I became a counselor for several years then went back to get my doctorate because everybody told me that I needed it if I truly wanted to work in the field of brain injury. I am amazed at the various roles I’ve been blessed with, and so it’s nice to be able to have worked as a photographer, reporter, page designer, and editor and now have the skills to be a clinical psychologist/neuropsychologist. Next to the word blessed in the dictionary, should be a picture of me. I couldn’t have dreamed this stuff up, it’s amazing what God has done with my life, as broken as it is.
TW: Now how is cycling different after donating a kidney to Jim? Can you talk about some of the hurdles living donors need to overcome and how you manage them?
There are NO real hurdles that donors have to overcome, and that’s something that people need to realize. The risks are extremely low, but for some reason there’s a misperception that we have problems to overcome. We don’t! I might fatigue a bit more now, and I’ve noticed that I don’t have as much endurance, but hey, I’m almost 58 years old and I sometimes forget that I’m not in my 20s anymore! But I still love to ride, and if somebody passes me, I try to stay on his/her wheel for a while before dropping back and telling myself, “Man, it’s so nice to be able to ride!”
TW: How has Tailwind Nutrition helped your fueling strategy?
I take Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Fuel with me when I ride, when I’m playing sports with my three boys, when I’m out watching them play baseball, soccer, or basketball. It really is all I need, and I definitely need to stay hydrated now that I only have one kidney. But that isn’t a problem. I love the Colorado Cola Endurance Fuel best, and I don’t have to worry about nutrition or putting something bad in my body. I am able to keep up with others while cycling because I have Tailwind Nutrition along for the ride in both of my bottle cages!
TW: You and Jim are training for something pretty cool! The Transplant Games! Can you talk more about that and how you both decided to take on this challenge?
Jim told me about the games, and we trained together in 2018 because we knew we wanted to compete in the cycling events. The 2020 Games were postponed then cancelled because of COVID-19, but we’re both hoping to compete in the next Games in San Diego in July 2022. It was awesome watching Jim win both a gold and bronze medal at the 2018 Games, and it’s getting warm enough now that we can begin to think about training for the next Games so we can stand atop the medal platform again!
Rapid Fire Questions
TW: Do you have any people (either ones you knew in person or otherwise) you looked up as a kid?
I was always a big Pete Rose fan, having loved baseball growing up. I loved his hustle and the way he could hit a ball. But I never made it as a player, but he was someone who inspired me to give it my all no matter what I did. When I got into cycling I was a huge admirer of Greg Lemond and his three Tour de France titles. Interestingly, a friend got me his autograph after my cycling accident, and he gave his wishes for my recovery.
TW: How about now as an adult?
Today, I’m less inspired by sports athletes and more inspired by people like Chris Tomlin, a Christian musician, and the late Keith Green, who loved Jesus and whose music always made me realize that despite what I faced, God is with me and that he loves me and has a plan for my life. Knowing that has helped me tremendously throughout all the trials I’ve faced, from TBI survivor to kidney donor — and seven years of graduate school, internship, and post-doctoral fellowship!
TW: What is your favorite post ride meal?
Anything. That first hour after a ride I always have a protein shake (did I mention that I love Chocolate Rebuild Recovery?). Then I try to have some fruit, pasta, and some more protein. But I will usually eat whatever is in front of me because my body is in shock and will just burn whatever I feed it. After that I get back to eating more nutritious meals and eating lean means and more salads and fruit.
TW: What is your favorite bike you have ever owned?
I still have the 1991 Litespeed Ultimate that I was riding when I was hit from behind by a truck in 1993. I sold it, but my fiance (now wife) bought it back and gave it to me as a wedding present. It’s the bike that God used to save me, physically and spiritually, so I’m going to keep it forever. I still ride it on occasion, and it’s always going to be my favorite!
TW: How many miles do you ride a week?
If I’m lucky I get in between 50-100 miles a week. There was a time I rode about 200 miles weekly, but that was before kids and when I was addicted to it. Now, I try to ride when time permits and the weather cooperates.
TW: Favorite cycling route?
Any long mountain. I love routes that climb for miles and miles, because I know that if it’s an out-and-back route, I’ll be going downhill on the turnaround. So just point me to some hills and I’ll take them on.
Resources from Scott
American Transplant Foundation, an organization that I’ve been a peer mentor with since my kidney donation. Also, I facilitate a support group in Longmont for people with TBI that is under the auspices of the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado.
You can read more about Scott and Jim’s journey here.