Tour de Second Chance

57 Year Old Cardiac Transplant Recipient Rides Bicycle 750 Miles from Cleveland Ohio to Boston Massachusetts


“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Albert Schweitzer


      On the heels of the Tour de France, a 57 year old cardiac transplant recipient will start the self-designed Tour de Second Chance; a 750 mile bike ride from Cleveland Ohio to Boston, Massachusetts He is riding to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation, support the cardiac transplant community and celebrate the athlete he has nurtured with his new donor heart. Partnering with the Donate Life campaign he hopes to encourage people to consider registering to become organ donors. By example, he is also interested in inspiring those with heart disease and living with donor hearts to make positive lifestyle choices and be compliant with their medications and diet.

“I understand that there aren’t enough hearts for everyone waiting ”, Richard reflects, “ so since I was fortunate enough to receive one, it seemed the honorable thing to do for myself and my donor’s family to take the best care of myself as possible. When I have a challenging day, I remember that and sometimes that means mustering up extra discipline or restraint in the moment to do the right thing”.

Richard Gates was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy in September 2000. After his diagnosis he had an ICD implant to assist his weakening body and on March 26, 2004, Richard Gates at the age of 52 received a heart from an anonymous organ donor. Cardiomyopathy is the same disease that claimed the life of his mother, Mary Margaret Sutherland Gates when she was 52.

Before his transplant Richard was a long-distance runner and ran 12 marathons. He learned he had cardiomyopathy as symptoms started hindering his running. As the cardiomyopathy claimed his strength, he managed his health with vigilant attention to all aspects of his life. His story is one of taking responsibility for being a partner in his healthcare program, not just a patient. Now in his fifth year as a donor heart recipient, Richard wants to share his story and help raise awareness of the importance of organ donation.

The Tour de Second Chance will start on Tuesday, July 29 at 12:00 from the University Hospital. The route will follow route 20 east and the first stop will be somewhere near Geneva on the Lake. Richard will be riding alone while his wife Barbara drives their 1992 Saab 900T fitted with a bike rack holding two bikes for Richard and one of Barbara who hopes to join him for a few miles. Cleveland Ohio is the home of University Hospital where Dr. James Fang , former attending cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where Richard had his cardiac transplant. Dr. Fang is currently Director of Clinical Cardiovascular Services and Director of Heart Failure and Transplantation at the University Hospital.

(NECN: Ally Donnelly, Boston, Mass.) - Richard Gates is pedaling for his life. In 2000, the 57-year-old Boston man found out he had cardiomyopathy, the same incurable heart condition that took his mother's life.

"I immediately found myself on my hands and knees on the floor, trying to gasp for my breath."

Weak and weighing just 114 pounds, Gates was hospitalized and put on the transplant waiting list. He needed a new heart. In 2004, a woman died and her family donated her organs -- Gates felt reborn.

"There was a sense of what do I need to do to get myself down the road."

In these past weeks, that road has taken the musician, his wife and their bikes from Ohio to Boston. His finish line, this bright summer morning, is Brigham and Women's Hospital, where he got his heart, but rest stops along the way were medical centers -- Gates talking to patients waiting for transplants, showing them what's possible.

Doctors at the Brigham say the biggest issue in the field of organ transplantation right now is the lack of available donors. Over the years, fewer people have been donating their organs, but more people need them.

Jackie Crothers is on the list. The 55-year-old Swampscott mother of two has been waiting for a heart for four years.

"Even if they told me all I would have is four years, I'd jump at it because that's more time with my kids and more time with my husband."

Crothers says it's a strange place to be, waiting for someone to die, so that you might live.

"It's like having one foot in the real world and one foot in this really weird, dark world, and, uh, it's invisible, people don't know."

Crothers is grateful for the visit from Gates. The two chatted quietly about nerve-wracking issues -- the wait, the drugs, organ rejection and what it means to have someone else's heart beating in your chest.

"I felt so fortunate that I had gotten a call and there was a heart for me," said Gates.

A heart full of gratitude for a woman who gave him her heart and a new mission in life.

"If one person decides to be an organ donor as a result of my ride, that's a step in the right direction," said Gates.

Heart transplant recipient rides for life

Story by Ally Donnelly reprinted below from

click on the picture to link to to see the video.

August 29, 2008

Today was an extraordinary day. We ended the ride at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, received by Dr. James Kirschenbaum, my cardiologist before I was listed for a heart transplant, Dr. Eldrin F Lewis, one of my cardiologists while I was on the list and the person who made the call to me that a heart was available for me, Linda James, one of my post-transplant nurse practitioners, and a slew of video cameras, microphones and reporters! Check out our blog for our take of the day.

Here however you will find stories this ride has generated and links to sites that have carried coverage of the Tour de Second Chance. At the bottom of this page is our own press release for the event. If you discover any coverage we have missed please email us through the “Contact Me” link in our left hand menu bar. Thank you everyone who played a part in spreading the word beyond our reach.