Lexington doctors bike for a cause - thousands of miles away in Southeast Asia
Two Lexington doctors from the University of Kentucky Medical Center have taken bike riding to another level, and they’re doing it to support a mission of mercy.
Dr. David Moliterno, a Professor of Medicine and former Chief of Cardiology and Dr. Randy Schell, a cardiac anesthesiologist are back from a 1500-mile bike ride through Vietnam and Cambodia.
The 62-year-old doctors have a lot in common. Both are from Michigan. Both came to U-K about 20-years ago, and both love riding their bikes long distances in places around the world.
“I absolutely love the freedom, and the feel of being on a bicycle, and travelling around. Kentucky is absolutely gorgeous. In fact, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ridden around the world is right here in the state of Kentucky,” says Dr. Moliterno.
Moliterno has ridden his bike in France, Italy, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Canada. Not to be out done, Dr. Schell rode his bike in those countries, across the United States, and from Canada to Mexico along the West Coast.
He says “that feeling of peace that you get out there you’re on your bike, I can’t even describe it. All I can say it’s there, it’s wonderful. It’s part of that living life to the fullest and living without regret.”
The nineteen days of riding last October and November in Vietnam and Cambodia were with a tour of riders mostly from the U-S and Canada. They had a guide, a bike mechanic for repairs on the road, and hotels to stay in along the way. Both doctors say the people in Vietnam and Cambodia were friendly and welcoming.
Dr. Schell says, “what was so much fun, we would stop in the little Vietnamese villages and get a coke or something or a coffee at their little stands at their homes. It was actually I think more fun stopping and trying to talk to some of these people then stopping at a regular store.”
Dr. Schell also says the children cheered them on as they rode past. “The kids would know one word, and it was hello and would yell hello as you went past, and smile big, and I loved that part.” The biggest challenge was riding on roads that were sometimes a mess.
Dr. Moliterno recalls, “there were some days where it was a lot of potholes and dirt roads, and heavy rain and high winds.” Both doctors were used to steep climbs along mountain roads, but they say on this trip they encountered even steeper ascents. “I remember one day it was monsoon rains blowing at you, and by the time you get to the other side, it was very cold actually,” says Dr. Schell.
Neither doctor recalls seeing much evidence of the war that consumed those countries in the 1960’s and 70’s, but they did spend one day visiting the museum at The Killing Fields. In the late 1970’s the Khmer Rouge regime tortured and murdered more than a million people. Thousands of those people were buried in mass graves called The Killing Fields.
Dr. Schell says in one place, “they had 17,000 skulls there, and turned into a monument. As we walked thru the killing fields where it had rained over a couple of days, you could see remnants of clothes coming up from the ground, pieces of bone coming up from the ground still from that era and it’s just sickening.”
The doctors averaged about eighty miles a day on this trip. They dedicated the ride to raising money through donations for a non-profit called The Unforgettables Foundation which pays for the funerals of children from low-income families.
Dr. Molinterno says of the families, “they go thru the devastation of losing a young child, but then right on the back of that, not being able to adequately fund a dignified burial. So, one of the nice things with this foundation, the money goes directly to the funeral home, to the tab of the family to offset that.”
To date The Unforgettable Foundation has helped more than eight-thousand families. The UK doctors would like to start a chapter of the foundation in Kentucky. They estimate their 1500-mile ride has raised at least $30,000.
The bike trip introduced them to new cultures, and a greater appreciation for simplicity. Dr. Schell explained, “I realized a new appreciation for happiness without things and many of the families there, they were getting together, eating together. They were very simple homes. Their kids looked happy, they seemed happy. I thought wow, no cell phones held up. They’re doing things together as a family, maybe we can learn something from that here in in the U-S.”
The doctors are planning their next biking trips with no sign of slowing down, and credit their wives for supporting them.
You can hear an extended interview with the doctors below.
You can donate to the doctor’s rides by going to unforgettables.org and clicking on a link to “Drs. David & Randy’s Global Ride 1.0.”
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