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Long-distance cycling put bypass patient on road to recovery

November 13, 2006|by CANDICE BOSELY

BAKERTON, W.VA. - When he was in college, an "incident with firecrackers" caused Peter Kerrigan to be suspended from Virginia Tech. In no hurry to return to his family home in New Jersey, he decided to ride his bicycle back from Blacksburg, Va.

During that trip, the longest distance Kerrigan spent in one day on his bike was about 85 miles.

It wasn't until last year that Kerrigan completed what cyclists call "a century" - riding 100 miles or more in a day. That goal came after Kerrigan, 54, had quadruple heart bypass surgery a little more than a year earlier.

Kerrigan first noticed pressure in his chest around two years ago. A walker and golfer, he obtained a pull cart to carry his clubs, but found it to be of little help.

In August 2003, a doctor performed several tests on him and found he had high blood pressure.

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He had a stress test on a Monday that August, and on Tuesday found himself on an operating table, undergoing the quadruple bypass surgery at Winchester (Va.) Medical Center.

Four weeks later, Kerrigan began his rehabilitation at Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Ranson, W.Va.

He set two goals: Walk all 18 holes during a round of golf and complete a 100-mile bicycle ride.

Kerrigan started his rehabilitation by working just two or three minutes on machinery such as a treadmill, an arm and leg machine, a stationary bike and an arm bicycle. He added more time and increased the intensity as the weeks went by. A month later, he started working with a weight machine.

After eight weeks of rehabilitation, he was given the go-ahead to ride a bike, and began riding a mountain bicycle on the quiet country roads near his Bakerton home.

That winter, he pedaled inside on a stationary bike while watching Tour de France tapes.

In April 2004, he rode 36 miles for a local charity event. In May, he rode 60 miles in a Tennessee ride, followed by two more 60-mile rides in August, both in Clear Spring.

A 69-mile ride followed in September.

Finally, in October 2004, Kerrigan and a friend both rode in the Sea Gull Century in Salisbury, Md.

They finished the ride in about eight hours, with six hours spent on their bikes. Four rest stops were scattered along the route.

He also has completed his goal of walking an entire golf course.

"That was a lot easier than riding the bicycle 100 miles," Kerrigan said.

He since has upped his goals.

"I want to ride three centuries this year," he said.

He urges anyone experiencing pain or pressure in their chest to see a doctor.

"I feel 10 times better now than I ever did before the operation," he said.

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