William Addison has been hiking the Appalachian Trail to raise money for Save One Life, a nonprofit that helps developing countries treat hemophilia. Addison has already smashed his initial goal of $2,200, and has raised over $22,100 as of Sept. 7. Courtesy

FALMOUTH — William Addison has hiked over 1,400 miles on the Appalachian trail, weathering multiple storms and Hurricane Laura to raise money for Save One Life, an international nonprofit that treats blood disorders.

As the fourth generation of his family with severe hemophilia, Addison, who’s in his teens, wanted to help those without access to the medications he can take. A Boy Scout with a family tradition of hiking, taking on the AT was the perfect challenge, which he started in June.

“A part of what I hope to accomplish by hiking the Appalachian Trail is to show it is possible and my bleeding disorder does not stop me from fulfilling one of my major goals,” he wrote in an email to the Forecaster.

Hemophilia is a blood disorder where essential proteins called factors, which cause blood to clot, are lacking. When hemophiliacs are cut or hurt, they often won’t stop bleeding without medical intervention. The disease is more common among men.

According to the National Hemophilia Foundation, roughly 20,000 people have the disease in the U.S and 400,000 people suffer from it worldwide. Seventy-five percent do not have access to proper care, mostly in developing countries.

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports between 100-299 males in Maine are hemophiliacs, but the CDC does not have data for women, who contract the disease less often.

For more severe forms of the disease, patients can experience “break through” bleeding, meaning they bleed without any apparent injury or cause. Still, with treatment, patients can often be more active.

“I have access to factor medication while most people with hemophilia in developing countries do not,” Addison said. “I am living a normal life.”

Addison, who was in Virginia at the time he was interviewed, had about 800 miles left on his trip before he wraps up in Georgia. Starting in Maine, the total hike is 2,200 miles and cuts through 14 states, including North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire.

According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, a nonprofit that keeps tabs on the trail, nearly 2 million people hike the AT each year, but only 20,000 through hikers complete the entire route annually.

“He’s been through nor’easters, hurricanes, it’s been very difficult to do this but he is strong,” Victoria Kuhn, Addison’s mother, said.

Addison is an experienced hiker, but said at times it can be pretty difficult.

“(It) has a lot of elevation change and certain sections of the trail are harder than others,” he said. “Maine has lots of roots on trail and Pennsylvania is extremely rocky  – nicknamed ‘Rocksylvania.’ While something like wildlife may seem like a challenge, the bears are generally shy and rattlesnakes want nothing to do with you. Surprisingly, mice in shelters are much more agitating and mosquitoes can be way worse than any bear or rattlesnake.”

While Addison is completing his journey with little-to-no help, he has not faced any injuries while hiking, according to Kuhn.

According to Kuhn, Addison has always faced challenges head-on, helping other youth with bleeding disorders learn how to administer their own medicine, a self-administered blood infusion that can intimidate people, especially the young. Now, his hiking can further inspire those around him.

According to Addison’s mom, Victoria Kuhn, Addison hikes every day with determination, often wiped out by the end of the night, but ready to get back at it in the morning. Courtesy photo

“This has been a goal of his for more than a year, he’s been planning this for a long time, the fact he is making it happen makes me gulp, we want to do everything to help our kids be successful, and not just to be successful, but to make a difference,” Kuhn said.

Addison easily surpassed his initial goal of raising $2,200, and just recently broke his updated goal of $22,000, raising about $100 over that as of Monday. More funds will mean a better program for Save One Life.

“We are looking at creating a COVID relief fund for these families that are impacted drastically, with work shut down and many unable to get the treatment to allow them to find other work,” Save One Life Director Chris Bombardier said. “Their only income in many cases has been our programs.”

According to Bombardier, Save One Life focuses on developing countries that do not have access to medications for hemophilia, whether it’s a lack of resources or laws that prevent them from being shipped in.

“Even here in the U.S, treatment can cost up to $60,000 (without insurance), but a cost for treatment person to person in other countries varies around there,” he said.

Save One Life serves “thousands” of people in countries that include Kenya, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Romania, Haiti, Nigeria, Honduras and more, according to its website.

Since 2002, the medication program has donated more than $140 million worth of medications to thousands of patients in 77 developing countries, according to its website.

While Addison has access to medications that allow him to hike and take on physical challenges, those in developing countries do not, and face a high death rate because of it.

“Half of the people with a bleeding disorder in a developing country will die by 10 years old due to their condition,” he said.

For Addison, this campaign is just a start, and he plans “more hikes to raise money in the future.”

“I have hemophilia myself,” Bombardier said. “It’s fun to see someone with a bleeding disorder accomplish something like this, so he’s showing what can be done with good treatment, but he’s making that statement with the bonus of doing it to help those who don’t have the same access to care that he has.

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