Ken Abramczyk | OBSERVER STAFF WRITER
Eighteen people die each day in the United States waiting for an organ transplant.
So this summer, David Landsberg rides. And rides. And rides.
On Wednesday, Landsberg, a kidney transplant recipient in 1999, rode his bike in Livonia and on Hines Drive on day No. 24 of his “Donors Rock Ride,” his quest to ride his bike 50 miles in 50 states in 50 days.
Landsberg was joined at the Cycle to Fitness bike shop on Farmington Road in Livonia by six members of the Racing Greyhounds riding club and Jennifer Tislerics, special events and partnerships coordinator of the Gift of Life Michigan. Tislerics said the ride was a “great opportunity to spread his message.”
Landsberg is riding his bike to educate the public and promote the need for registered organ, eye and tissue donors. More than 110,000 Americans are waiting for life-saving transplants.
Landsberg, who is partnering with Donate Life America on his Donors Rock Ride, began the ride July 4, the anniversary date Landsberg received his life-saving kidney from a 6-year-old boy.
“If there are no donors, there are no recipients,” Landsberg said.
Landsberg of Dallas, Texas, was born with polycystic kidney disease, a progressive degenerative disease that leads to renal failure, he said.
Both kidneys and his spleen were removed in 1998. He was on dialysis three days a week, four hours a day and, he said, he “watched a lot of people die.”
“When you're sick, you start defining yourself by what's happening in your life,” Landsberg said. “I would say I was a dialysis patient. Then one day I saw Kirk Douglas interviewed by Barbara Walters after he had suffered a stroke. She asked him why he was so happy, and he replied, ‘I'm thankful it's not worse.'”
At that point Landsberg thought about Christopher Reeves, who was paralyzed from his horse-riding accident, yet Reeves never gave up in his efforts to regain mobility. “I thought, ‘I've got it easy,'” Landsberg said. “I was more grateful for what I had vs. what I didn't have.”
Landsberg, founder of the Society for Organ Donor Awareness, calls July 4 his “Independence from Dialysis Day.” He kicked off the ride in Austin, Texas, that day and will conclude it Aug. 23 inOklahoma City.
His mission is also to register new donors in every state.
Landsberg said he feels “fantastic” and is thankful and grateful for the family who gave him his opportunity to live with the donated kidney.
Bike riding is “pretty grueling,” doing the 50 miles day after day, he said.
“I want to get people's attention to what I'm doing and open up dialogue to the whole donor process,” Landsberg said.
Landsberg has ridden his Specialized Roubaix bike 1,200 miles as of Wednesday. When he finishes in August, Landsberg will have ridden 2,600 miles. He added two more cities to bring the total number to 52 on the ride.
Six members of the Livonia-based Racing Greyhounds joined him Wednesday morning at the Cycle to Fitness bike shop on Farmington Road before heading out south on to Farmington Road to Hines Drive.
“We liked his story, and we like riding,” said Daniel Sterling, a Livonia resident who leads the riding club.
M.V. Carroll of Farmington Hills, also a member of the Racing Greyhounds, said the group enjoys taking in Hines Drive. “It's the freedom of being on a bicycle with nature and out with friends,” Carroll said.
“We're going to get a few miles in. It helps relieve stress,” Sterling said.
Landsberg hopes more Michigan residents step forward and register to donate organs. “It doesn't cost any money,” he said. “If you leave this Earth, you'll be a hero.
“We always look at people in the military, police officers and firefighters as our heroes. This is a way for the common person to be a hero and to make the world a better place.”
Anyone who wishes to join the Donor Registry can do so atwww.giftoflifemichigan.org, by calling (800) 482-4881 or by visiting any Secretary of State branch office. Michigan residents who join the Donor Registry receive a red heart donor emblem for the front of their license or state ID card so they know they are fully registered.