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Former Colorado sports broadcaster searching for kidney transplant on a mission to recruit 5,000 living donors

Mark McIntosh and family
Posted at 8:00 PM, Nov 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-23 13:28:49-05

DENVER — With decades on television, speaking engagements, and a strong social media following, Mark McIntosh knows how to turn a phrase. Now, he has 11 words to share with anyone who will listen: “Share your spare, save a life, and leave a priceless legacy.”

Many in Colorado will likely recognize McIntosh from his live broadcasts covering sports — with a particular penchant for the CU Buffs — on CBS Colorado. He’s kept plenty busy in the years since he signed off on live television for the last time, between writing four books, starting a nonprofit, and teaching as an adjunct professor at MSU Denver.

Since April, he’s had another commitment eating up great amounts of his time: Thrice weekly dialysis appointments, with chemo treatments interspersed.

“I was very busy … and then, suddenly, amyloidosis. I still have trouble pronouncing the damn thing,” McIntosh laughed.

Amyloidosis is a rare disease that causes protein to build up in key organs, and significantly impair their function. It’s so rare, in fact, that the Cleveland Clinic estimates it affects only about 9 people out of every million in the United States. After experiencing weight loss, trouble sleeping, and foam in his urine, McIntosh was diagnosed with the disease in April.

“It went after my kidneys, and it’s destroyed my kidneys,” he explained. “And we tried dialysis, and chemo, and all this to try to stop the [protein] and to wake up my kidneys, but it didn’t work. So now, I have to switch over to, ‘this dude needs a kidney.’”

McIntosh is still spending about 12 hours every week on dialysis, while he waits for a match for a kidney transplant. Doctors tell him that, with a successful transplant, his long-term outlook is good; and during his own wait for a kidney, he’s found his newest mission.

“I was sitting in Bible study. It’s Friday morning, a group of guys,” McIntosh recalled. “It’s like a locker room. We bust each other’s chops. We try to grow spiritually. And I went in there one day, [and said] ‘I need a kidney.’ And one of my buddies said, ‘get over yourself. Go find 5,000 kidneys.’”

Thus, McIntosh’s latest — and he believes greatest — calling, was found. Using his talents for speaking and writing, he is connecting with neighbors and media organizations to spread the word on the importance of living organ donation. He especially has his eye on adults between the ages of 50 and 65, who he said can be great candidates because of their health status and stage of life.

“We came up with this community awareness campaign. People can live just fine with one kidney. Share your spare, save a life, leave a priceless legacy,” he said. “Most people, after they give a kidney, they’re up and walking the next day, walking their dogs, going to farmer’s markets. Within about three weeks, you’re back to light exercise. Within six weeks, people are back to their normal routine. And to think that, 'Okay, six weeks of minor inconvenience,' but it can save somebody else’s life.”

The UCHealth network has an extensive living donor program, with detailed information on the process online. It is completely confidential, and no commitment is required. Selected matches, if they decide to proceed with donation, are not responsible for any costs of the procedure.

McIntosh doesn’t know when he’ll go under the knife for his own transplant. He has faith, though, that he will — and that he will live a long and healthy life afterward. And, in the meantime, he has a job to do.

“I’ve got something inside of me that, if I didn’t treat it, could kill me. But, I’ve never felt more alive,” he said. “I have purpose. I mean, it’s kind of for me, at 65 what am I going to do the rest of my life? Well, one of the things I’m going to do is certainly push for more live organ donation.”

Former Colorado sports broadcaster on a mission to recruit 5,000 living donors

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