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Grateful patient and orthopedic surgeon ride Erie Canal, side by side

KidneysSeveral years ago, at age 68, Patricia Martin organized the Erie Canal Ride and challenged her doctor, orthopedic surgeon Richard Tallarico, MD, to ride the two-day, 68-mile ride alongside her.

They rode those miles and, over five years, raised more than $50,000 for Upstate University Hospital.

Martin was a health care provider who loved what she did, but a back injury left her nearly unable to walk. In constant pain, she slept in a recliner chair and was told that without surgery, she would need to use a wheelchair. Finding her orthopedic surgeon at Upstate was "a blessing," Martin explains.

Richard Tallarico, MD, joins Patricia Martin, his former surgery patients, before the 68-mile ride begins.

Richard Tallarico, MD, joins Patricia Martin, his former surgery patient, before the 68-mile ride begins.

Today, she says, after many years of pain, she is pain free.

The experience affected Martin, a licensed practical nurse, so profoundly that she wrote a book about her journey and dedicated it to Tallarico, her surgeon and friend.

She says her back injury was so debilitating and impacted her life so dramatically, she never dreamed she would be able to ride a bike for a total of 374 miles. Grateful that she could return to her active life, she wanted to give back in a meaningful way, and the Ride was born. Many friends and family members have joined them, and the money raised supports pediatric and adult patient services through fund established at the Upstate Foundation.

Last September, Martin decided to get back out on the trail and complete a one-day, 34-miles ride. Again, Tallarico joined her, and they rode side by side.  The 2015 Erie Canal Ride raised $4,625 to support services for children with developmental disabilities at Upstate's Center for Development, Behavior and Genetics, and for recreation therapy in the physical medicine and rehabilitation department, where Martin volunteers.

"Volunteering is rewarding, she says, "and sometimes I share my story with patients on the units, and I think it gives them hope."

Are you grateful, too?

Do you have a personal understanding of how extraordinary care has impacted your health and quality of life or that of a loved one? Click here for details on how to tell your story to the Upstate Foundation.

This article appears in the spring 2016 issue of Upstate Health magazine.