PITTSBURGH — Early Sunday morning, thousands of people took off from the starting line at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon. Many participants had their reasons to make the trek. Some ran for fun, family or for health.
However, it was a team of medical professionals that took things to the next level when they decided not to run for themselves, but instead to run in the place of their patients dealing with pulmonary hypertension, or PH. The group, named Team PHenomenal Hope, is comprised of endurance athletes in the medical field dedicated to raising awareness about the rare disease.
Dr. Patricia George, the manager of Team PHenomenal Hope, is a pulmonary hypertension physician at UPMC. She is always in close proximity to PH patients, handling those with the rare disease both pre- and post-transplant. So when the idea to start a team came to mind, there was no hesitation.
“It’s something I personally am very passionate about,” George said. “What means the most to me is that it’s not just me.”
This year at the Pittsburgh Marathon, she led the race as a bike marshal while over 50 teammates ran or volunteered wearing their bright purple shirts to raise awareness for the disease.
“We wanted to paint the field in purple to the color of Pulmonary Hypertension awareness,” George said.
Pulmonary hypertension, or PH, is a rare disease that causes high blood pressure in the lungs. Symptoms of PH include shortness of breath, an accelerated heart rate or dizziness. It is medically treatable but there is no known cure for the disease.
On the eighth mile at the Pittsburgh Marathon, just south of the West End Bridge, the other half of Team PHenomenal Hope made a strong presence, handing out Gatorade and water to participants.
However, it wasn’t just Gatorade that made the eighth mile special, it was the patients who got up at the crack of dawn to make it out to cheer on George and the rest of the team running in their honor.
Julia Feitner is one of the patients dealing with pulmonary hypertension. To see Dr. George running in place of her was a big moment.
“Every day, there are times when we struggle to do basic activities,” said Feitner. “It just means so much to see our doctors going out there and getting breathless for us.”
So as Dr. George and one half of Team PHenomenal went on, there was another half at mile eight, rooting as the same doctor that treated them biked out into the Pittsburgh Marathon on their behalf.
“It’s about people taking control of something that’s out of control,” said George.
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