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Man with cystic fibrosis kicks off 100-mile bike ride to Montauk

Double-lung transplant recipient Jerry Cahill, 62, who has cystic fibrosis, kicked off a 100-mile ride from Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park to Montauk on Friday, aiming to show that exercise can improve the quality of life for people living with the disease. Credit: Barry Sloan

With supporters cheering him on, a Brooklyn man with cystic fibrosis rode out of a New Hyde Park hospital on a bicycle Friday to embark on a 100-mile ride.

Jerry Cahill, 62, who had a double-lung transplant, was once a patient at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, when the hospital was known by a different name. He kicked off his first century ride, which will take him all the way to Montauk to show that exercise can improve the quality of life for people living with the disease.

“We want parents to realize that your son and daughter — they are normal,” Cahill said before the start of his trip. “They should get out there and live a full life.”

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that causes severe damage to the lungs and other organs. The disease, which affects about 30,000 people in America, leads to a buildup of sticky mucus in the lungs and can lead to death by respiratory failure.

Cahill, who turned 62 this week, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was 10 years old, at a time when a child with the disorder was expected to live to about 16 to 18 years.

“I think exercise has been singularly important for him to live the quality of life that he does and help keep him going,” said Dr. Joan DeCelie-Germana, director of the Cystic Fibrosis Center at the hospital. “You can have minimal lung functions, but if you push yourself, from a spiritual sense and from a physical sense, you will do much better.”

Cahill, accompanied by his trainer, Pete Blieberg, 58, of Islip Terrace, hopes to reach Montauk at around 8 p.m. Friday.

As part of his goal to spread the message that those with cystic fibrosis can live a long life with the help of exercise — be it biking, running or swimming — Cahill plans to complete a century ride in each of the 50 states by the end of 2019.

The next two rides, Cahill said, are scheduled to take place in Michigan and Ohio, in August or September.

“Thank you for being an inspiration to me and people like me and CF [cystic fibrosis] patients all around the world,” said Katherine Sneddon, 23, of Levittown. “So, I’d like to wish him good luck as he embarks on this 100-mile journey, getting acquainted with every hill between here and Montauk.”