As my blog, I am posting an article of mine that was published today in our paper...I am giving fair warning now it is quite lengthy, but I promise it is a great, informative read. It's about a 5-mile race that is taking this weekend in Lansdale. SIGN UP!! Enjoy!!!
When 21-year-old Melissa Heintz walks around her St. Francis University Pennsylvania campus, the Division I swimmer looks like any regular college student.
Eight-year-old Alex Rowe, a second-grade student at Oak Park Elementary School in Hatfield, enjoys playing with friends and his video games just like any other little kid.
While a healthy appearance is portrayed by both individuals, the general public would never be able to guess that Rowe and Heintz are diagnosed with a rare bleeding disorder that affects more than 25,000 people across the nation.
“Most of my friends have no idea I have a disorder,” said Heintz. “When I tell them, they are usually surprised to hear anything is wrong with me.”
Heintz was diagnosed at birth with von Willebrand disease, a bleeding disorder caused by a defect or deficiency of a blood clotting protein, called von Willebrand Factor.
“My dad knew he had (von Willebrand) so me and my brother were tested right away and we tested positive,” said Heintz.
Rowe was also born with the disorder; however, his was found during a procedure at the hospital. Unlike Henitz, Rowe posses Type 3 severe von Willebrand disease which is only found in roughly 400 people in the world.
According to the National Hemophilia Foundation website, “usually, people with von Willebrand disease bruise easily, have recurrent nosebleeds, or bleed after tooth extraction, tonsillectomy or other surgery.”
All of those symptoms are issues both Heintz and Rowe endure on a daily basis.
“I bruise very easily,” said Heintz. “When I was little and just beginning to swim, I use to have bruises on my legs from when I was getting in and out of the pool. People were always asking what happened to me.”
“I’ve had a couple of surgeries also,” said Heintz. “Simple services like getting tape pulled off my skin I’d have to go to the hospital because they need to give (me) special medicine to thicken (my) blood. When I had to get my tonsils out in kindergarten that was a big ordeal. Doctors have now come out with special nose spray you take before surgeries for blood disorders. They’ve come a long way with surgeries.”
Rowe has chronic nose bleeds which take place during the day and during the night. As an elementary school student, getting a bloody nose in class would embarass most, but it does not faze Rowe.
“If I get one in school I just grab a tissue, wipe it away and go to the nurse,” said Rowe. “I sometimes try to explain it to kids but they don’t really get it.”
Individuals with hemophilia are advised by doctors to avoid abrasions, injures, and cuts. But how do parents tell an energetic kid they can’t do sports or participate in typical kid activities?
For Heintz the solution was easy — she decided to get in the water.
Heintz’s swimming career began in fourth grade and has continued to excel throughout her college years. A Boyertown native, Heintz swam for her local swim team, continued at Olney High School and just concluded her last collegiate season at St. Francis University.
“When I was little I tried out soccer and softball, and my parents were paranoid the whole time because I could get hit with a ball,” said Heintz. “I usually stayed away from the ball anyway because I’m not coordinated. After that I took up swimming. It’s a good sport because it is low impact and chances of something happening are slim.”
Christine Rowe, Alex’s mother and Fund Development Coordinator for the Delaware Valley Chapter of the National Hemophilia Foundation, has educated her son on the activities he is and is not allowed to participate in, but the Rowe household tries to focus on the positive.
“We really try to focus on what he can do and not his limitations,” said Christine.
Rowe enjoys playing baseball, riding his bike and swimming.
Although physical activity is limited for those diagnosed with hemophilia, both Heintz and Rowe prove that there are still ways to be active.
Despite a 13-year age gap, Heintz and Rowe have something in common; they enjoy running.
Rowe was told at a young age that he is prohibited from playing high-impact sports due to the risk of injury.
“If I see something that looks really dangerous I usually don’t get involved in it and walk away,” said Rowe.
Running, however is one of his favorite activities.
“Because he is 8 he of course is not a competitive runner, but he enjoys it,” said Christine. “He runs at baseball and he runs around outside.”
Heintz, on the other hand, picked up the sport to continue physical exercise after finishing her swimming career.
To show support for their son and help those diagnosed with a blood disorder, the Rowe family created the Broad Street Rerun two years ago; a five-mile run, one-mile family walk and ½-mile kid run fundraiser in Lansdale to support the Delaware Valley Chapter of the National Hemophilia Foundation representing Philadelphia.
“I came up with the idea of a race after running in a bunch of races that (raised funds ) for charities,” said Christine. “So I came up with the idea of a 5K race in Hatfield to benefit the Delaware Valley Chapter.”
Bob Babb, owner of The Physical Therapy & Wellness Institute, contacted Christine after the 5K race in 2008 and asked to work in conjunction with the National Hemophilia Foundation to create what is now the Broad Street Rerun.
“(Bob) said he wanted to be a part of the race as a sponsor and I said, ‘As long as you get the roads closed off I’ll take care of everything else,’” said Christine.
Since 2009, the Broad Street Rerun is the largest race that takes place out of all of the chapters of the National Hemophilia Foundation across the United States
In 2009 the race totaled 425 participants, which had grown to more than 600 participants in 2010. This year Christine has already received 700 pre-registrations and is expecting more within the last week and on race day — which is Saturday.
“We are so grateful for all the individuals who participate in this race,” said Christine. “Not only for my family but for all the other families. Some families like us have to pay $350,000 for medicine each year. The money from the race helps families in need and to our scholarships.”
Both Heintz and Rowe will be present at this year’s race, along with other individuals suffering from a blood disorder.
“I really want to say people come to support the cause, but I think a lot of why people sign up and return is because of the heart and soul that goes into the preparation and actual race,” said Christine. “There are thousands of races all over, but this is a quality race and put together really well.”
Community members from all over the area are planning to participate in this year’s event, supporting the National Hemophilia Foundation, their own physical fitness, and for some a combination of both.
According to Christine, there are individuals from over six different states being represented in the race this year.
Vira Katolik from Lansdale is running her second Broad Street Rerun after a positive experience last year.
“(Alex Rowe) is my friend’s cousin so when I heard about the run last year I knew I had to do it,” she said. “I live in Lansdale and try to participate in as many events as possible. I just ran the Broad Street Run (in Philadelphia) last weekend and I’d like to beat my split time from that. It’s a good event and benefits a relative of someone I know.”
Mother-daughter duo Megan Briggs and Cindi Holman, who will be driving from outside Ann Arbor, Mich., will be running the Broad Street Rerun for the first time this year.
“I am going to spend the week with my daughter and her family,” said Holman. “(Megan) mentioned the race and it coincided with the time I’m there so we signed up.”
This duo has been running races together for several years and has completed many half marathons.
“I’m (running) to do it with Megan, it’s a mother-daughter thing,” said Holman.
Although Holman and Briggs are running this race to be in each other’s company, the meaning behind this event still means a lot to the runners.
“Almost all of the races I run are fundraisers,” said Holman. “I just love that they are going toward something good.”
The third Annual Broad Street Rerun will take place on Saturday with the race beginning at 9 a.m. and the ½-mile kid run starting at 8:45 a.m.
Packet pick up will be held at North Wales Running Company, 111 N. Main St., North Wales, on Friday from 2 to 7 p.m. or on Saturday morning before the race. On Friday, you can pick up another runner’s packet, no ID is required.
On race day, all runners and walkers will meet at The Pavilion Shopping Center, 443 S. Broad St., Lansdale. The 5-mile out and back course will travel down Broad Street to Morris Road and turn around, running back to where the race started.
Race Bag and T-shirt are guaranteed to all pre-registered participants. A new design will be printed on a tech T-shirt for those who sign up.
The 5-mile run or walk is $30. The kids run is $15. Registration can be done in advance or on race day.
All kids who run will receive a medal after completing the half mile. Prizes will also be given out to the top male and female runners, along with first-, second- and third-place finishers in specific age divisions.
During the race, Lehigh Valley Dairy Farms staff will be on hand to offer participants samples of Lehigh Valley Dairy Farms 1 percent lowfat chocolate milk.
After the run, Christine and the National Hemophilia Foundation will talk about the foundation and how the money raised from this event will go toward the Delaware Valley Chapter, which helps roughly 2,000 people.
Food, music and mascots — including Buzz the Bee from B101 radio station, Super Mario and Luigi, and Mad Dog from the Philadelphia Wings — will be present at the race.
To sign up for the race visit www.hemophiliasupport.org/Rerun. Both online and printable applications are available.
To learn more about the National Hemophilia Foundation and how you can help log on to www.hemophilia.org.
“Thank you to everyone who is coming and I hope we get enough money to help stop bloody noses,” said Rowe.