COCONINO NATIONAL FORESTLAND, Ariz. — What some physicians won’t do.
In order to specifically assist her Team PHenomenal Hope co-rider, to generally help to raise awareness and research funding for the dreaded disease of pulmonary hypertension, UPMC pulmonologist Dr. Patty George pedaled furiously through northern Arizona and the June 18 purple-pink sunrise. She, in fact, pedaled right past the idling rental vehicle in which teammate Anne-Marie Alderson tried to catch a rare catnap in the rear of the van with seats removed.
All trying to reach the Durango, Colo., finish of this 860-mile Race Across the West (RAW).
This race is the little sister to the 3,000-mile Race Across America (RAAM) where Team PHenomenal Hope made its debut last June, as a four-woman team along with Stacie Truszkowski, Dr. George’s colleague in the University of Pittsburgh Department of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine, plus friend Ryanne Palermo. This time, Dr. George and Alderson are trying it with just two.
It isn’t easy. They switched every other mile or two to climb ascents such as the Yarnell Grade (2,900-foot elevation in 13 miles,). They endured temperatures of 113 degrees Fahrenheit one afternoon by California’s Salton Sea and 106 by mid-morning the next day in Arizona’s desert. They covered miles and hours while the other attempted to rest in the back of vans. They pedaled bicycles and peddled pulmonary hypertension (PH), sponsor UPMC adorning their racing kits and three follow vehicles.
Four of their crew work for UPMC: In addition to Dr. George, they are nurse Ryann Biedlingmaier, athletic trainer Scott Morrison and crew chief Pete Kochupura, a pulmonologist from UPMC Passavant and long ago a fellow in training.
“We’re an endurance cycling and sports team trying to bring attention and more funding to pulmonary hypertension, a disease for which there is no cure,” said Dr. George. “We had a blast last year with RAAM, and now we’re working to grow that effort with more people, more events, more attention.”
The day before RAW started June 16, Dr. George and the team held a luncheon in Oceanside, Calif., with dozens of family members and PH patients who met them in Prescott, Ariz., June 17 and are expected at the Durango finish June 18.