4 local friends travel across country raising awareness, money for lung condition

PITTSBURGH — They are four friends with one big mission—to cycle across the country to raise awareness and money for a debilitating lung condition.

They call themselves Team PHenomenal Hope, and they said they are inspired by the people living with pulmonary hypertension, or PH.

“I was a healthy person, or at least I thought I was” said PH patient Patti Gordon.

She was diagnosed after she had difficulty breathing.

“When he first told me I had PH I acted very stoic in the doctor’s office and then I went to the parking garage and burst into tears,” she said.  “All I knew about PH was the need for surgery and getting a lung transplant.”

PH is a type of high blood pressure that affects the arteries in the lungs and causes the heart to work harder.

It makes it difficult for blood to flow through the lungs, leaving patients short of breath, tired or dizzy, or in some cases, in need of a transplant.

UPMC pulmonologist Dr. Patricia George knows how dangerous this incurable condition can be.

“If it goes undiagnosed, the median survival in patients with untreated PH is 2.8 years,” said George.

She advises her patients to increase their physical fitness to improve their condition, and she practices what she preaches.

She and three cycling friends formed Team PHenomenal Hope and will cycle 3,000 miles across American to raise money and awareness for PH.

“We will train for the next year and a half. The race is actually in June of 2014. It will start in Oceanside, California and will finish in Annapolis, Maryland,” she said.

Their journey is inspiring to Gordon, who plans a shorter bike trip of her own next summer.

“To think of these women taking time out of their lives to promote awareness for a disorder that doesn't affect any of their lives personally, I think it’s amazing,” said Gordon.

“The patients that I work with and the patients that we interact with, they are the fuel in our drive to do this,” said Dr. George.

To learn more about PH, visit the Pulmonary Hypertension Association website.

To follow or donate, log on to Team PHenomenal Hope's website.