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Cyclists Travel Cross Country To Raise Money For Pulmonary Hypertension

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- They race through the deserts and over the mountains, on a course that takes them from California to Maryland.

The 3,000-mile odyssey aims to raise awareness and donations to fight a disease of the heart and lungs called pulmonary hypertension.

Four UPMC riders, called Team Phenomenal Hope, was led by Dr.Patty George, a pulmonary specialist at Presbyterian Hospital.

"Sometimes patients need lung transplants," says Dr. George. "There's still no cure. Few people know about PH, as we call it. And this was an opportunity to race our bikes, do something a little crazy, and help shine a spotlight on this cause."

It worked. By the time fundraising is finished, the 200 or so riders hope to raise $100,000 for the Pulmonary Hypertension Association. That's good news for patients like Julia Feitner, a support group leader who was diagnosed with the disease at the worst possible time.

"I was diagnosed in 2008, when I was 34 weeks pregnant with our second son," she recalls. "At that point, I was unable to pick up toys off the floor. I couldn't walk up a flight of stairs without stopping. I had a 3-year-old at home. Just to take him upstairs for a nap was so difficult, just to make it up those stairs."

Drugs have eased Julia's symptoms, but the disease persists. Dr. George says crossing the finish line in Annapolis, Maryland was a great feeling. But the real race has just begun.

"The race to finding a cure for pulmonary hypertension, so that we can help people, not need a lung transplant, and live long and happy lives, that's ongoing," she says. "And so as long as that's ongoing, we'll keep fundraising, and raising awareness to find a cure."

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