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Through a Bike Trip, Heart Transplant Recipient Promotes Organ Donation

Richard Gates pushed off Monday afternoon from Pittsburgh on a 700-mile bike ride to Boston. That’s difficult enough for a perfectly fit person, but consider that the 62-year-old musician is a heart transplant recipient.

This is the third time since 2008 that Gates is making a long bike trip that he calls the Tour de Second Chance. During the trip he will stop at hospitals and meet with patients on the waiting list and recent transplant recipients, “bringing awareness to organ donation and being able to visit with people awaiting hearts and able to answer some questions.”

Before leaving Gates did visit with some patients at Allegheny General Hospital. He started this trip in Pittsburgh because of relatives in the area and of course the large number of transplants performed in the city.

Gates was diagnosed in 2000 with cardiomyopathy, which has no cure. 

“Being told you have a certain time to live is very profound, but it also makes things very simple,” Gates said. “Mundane things kind of moved by the wayside."

A cross country runner in high school and college, Gates said it seemed natural to  do something physical, such as the bike ride, seemed natural to call attention to organ donation. 

“It’s not for everyone but it is something to consider and think about whether you would consider being an organ donor,” he said.

From Pittsburgh, Gates, who will be followed in a car by his wife, will bike to Cleveland, then along Lake Erie to Buffalo. After that he pedals to Rochester and continues to cross New York with a stop in Albany.    He wraps up his trip at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where he had his transplant nine years ago.

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