Going the distance: Bike tour just latest challenge for three-time transplant recipient

Jerry Cahill has had an uphill ride.

The Bay Ridge resident was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at age 11, at a time when the life expectancy of those with the genetic disorder was 15.

“They basically told my parents just to let Jerry stay home, be comfortable,” Cahill told this paper. “It was like a death sentence. But with modern technology, all the advances in the pharmaceutical companies, the life expectancies got better.”

Now 66 and the beneficiary of three organ transplants, Cahill is trying to make the road easier for others like him, which is why he’s preparing for the ride of his life: the TD Five Boro Bike Tour on May 7. He’ll be in good company, too. His pulmonologist, Dr. Selim Arcasoy, will ride by his side. 

Jerry Cahill in the hospital. Photos courtesy of Jerry Cahill

Cahill is a member of the Boomer Esiason Foundation, which raises money for the cystic fibrosis community. Esiason, the former N.Y. Jets quarterback and current WFAN radio host, created the foundation in 1993 after his son was diagnosed with the disorder.

“We are raising money to give back to people that have cystic fibrosis through scholarships, and we give transplant grants to people that are waiting for organ transplants,” Cahill said. “Every day is a gift. I honor my donors every day by living a good life and giving back. To do the bike tour is like a celebration of life.”

Photos courtesy of Jerry Cahill

Cahill credits exercise with helping him to gain strength and overcome the odds after his diagnosis, but by 2012 he needed a lung transplant. Despite continued exercise and healthy living, he developed kidney and liver problems and had his second and third transplants in 2021.

“They gave me a 25 percent chance of making it,” he said. 

Cahill slowly regained his strength and began rigorously training for the 40-mile bike tour. The Xaverian H.S. alum also coaches pole vaulting at Iona Prep in New Rochelle and Fordham Prep in the Bronx.

Photos courtesy of Jerry Cahill

He hopes his story shows people the effect an organ donation can have on someone’s life.

“It’s important for people to be aware that being an organ donor not only saves lives but it gives people the opportunity to thrive and live,” he said.

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