Lung Recipients Bike to San Diego
HEALTH: Two men who received transplants at the UCSD Medical Center rode from Santa Barbara

UCSD Guardian News
April 27, 1998

Two men who both received double-lung transplants at UCSD completed a 275-mile bike journey from Santa Barbara to the UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest on Friday to celebrate National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week.

Mark Blaauboer, 31, and Philip Cordova, 33, were greeted by Jolene Kriett, the surgeon who performed both of their transplants, and Rudolph Morgan, executive director of the Organ and Tissue Acquisition Center (OTAC) of Southern California. Other transplant recipients and those still on the waiting list for a transplant were on hand to meet them.

Blaauboer and Cordova averaged about 60 miles a day to reach the hospital by Friday evening.

"It was a lot of fun," Blaauboer said. "We could do more, too. It was just kind of a test run for us. We're going to push a little harder this fall."

Both Blaauboer and Cordova have cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease characterized by chronic lung infections that progressively destroy the lungs. According to Cordova, a double-lung transplants were necessary because of the possibility of any remaining lung tissue reinfecting newly transplanted lungs.

Cordova said that he hopes their efforts draw attention to organ donation and cystic fibrosis.

"Having cystic fibrosis, I grew up with this all my life and when my lungs started to fail me, I got a transplant," Cordova said. "I was blessed with that and I felt a passion to express my great gift and go out and promote organ donation and go out and promote CF awareness."

Blaauboer came to San Diego from New York to receive medical treatment, and Cordova came from Albuquerque. Both men were dying from end-stage lunch disease caused by cystic fibrosis. They eventually had to be placed on continuous supplemental oxygen 24-hours per day.

Blaauboer and Cordova met in San Diego while waiting for their transplants. They shared a keen interest in sports and made plans for activities they would do when they received their new lungs.

Cordova received a double-lung transplant on April 18, 1996. Blaauboer received his transplant on July 27, 1996.

The trip from Santa Barbara was the first "Bilateral Bike for Breath Tour." Cordova and Blaauboer have plans to undergo other biking tours, including an excursion from San Francisco to San Diego this fall. Next year, they plan to bike from Washington to San Diego.

Blaauboer and Cordova received lungs recovered by OTAC which works with 32 hospitals in San Diego and Imperial counties to provide organs to the nearly 800 patients in the San Diego region currently waiting for transplants.

Both Cordova and Blaauboer plan to return to their homes after they are fully discharged from UCSD later this year, but Cordova said that he will still return to San Diego for his checkups every six months.