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Assisted by Hannah Greeno, 11, David Kuhn runs along the track Sunday, July 27, 2014, at Rollie Greeno Field in Jamestown, N.D. Kuhn, who is blind, is running 11,000 miles across the United States to raise money and awareness of cystic fibrosis, a hereditary life-threatening disorder affecting the lungs and other organs. (Kari Lucin/The Jamestown Sun)

Blind man runs across U.S. raising funds for cystic fibrosis research

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JAMESTOWN, N.D. -- David Kuhn may not be running for his life, but he is running for the lives of the 70,000 people worldwide who have cystic fibrosis.

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Kuhn, who is blind, embarked on an 11,000-mile, 18-month run in May, raising money for and increasing awareness of the illness affecting his granddaughter, Kylie, 12.

“I’m 62. I want to extend my granddaughter’s lifespan as long as I can,” Kuhn said Sunday at Rollie Greeno Field in Jamestown.

Kuhn’s route will take him from Seattle to Bangor, Maine, to Jacksonville, Fla., to San Diego and finally, back to Seattle.

Because of the impracticalities of a blind person running along a highway, typically Kuhn travels to a location, finds a runner guide there and runs along a scenic route or track.

The guide runs alongside Kuhn -- with a short, knotted rope between them -- and warns Kuhn of any upcoming obstacles or changes in the path’s surface. Kuhn can generally see contrasts up to a few feet ahead of him, but that’s it.

“I run marathons all the time with the same method,” he said.

Every mile Kuhn travels -- generally by bus or car -- he also runs, stopping in many cities along the way for pictures and publicity for his cause.

“So far I’ve done 50 miles here (in Jamestown),” Kuhn said Sunday afternoon.

Helping to guide Kuhn on Sunday was Hannah Greeno, 11, who was in Jamestown visiting family along with her father, Gregg Greeno.

Gregg -- son of the late Rollie Greeno, a longtime coach at Jamestown College -- just happened to run into Kuhn.

“I saw ‘blind runner’ (on his shirt) and he told me the whole story,” said Gregg, who now lives in St. Michael, Minn.

The cross-country trip hasn’t always been easy for Kuhn, who lost his eyesight gradually after being struck by a drunk driver when he was 29. On his way from Seattle to Jamestown, he ran in the rain many times with the aid of a poncho, but the most draining experience was the wind in Dickinson.

“My eyeballs felt like they dropped out in the dirt, and someone put them back in with a hammer,” Kuhn recalled.

Then there was Butte, Mont., where the weather changed with every lap he took.

Kuhn soldiered on, though, on behalf of his granddaughter, Kylie, an energetic girl who loves crafting.

According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the illness primarily affects the lungs and digestive system. It’s caused by a defective gene that causes a buildup of thick mucus in the lungs, pancreas and other organs. Often, the mucus clogs the lungs, causing breathing problems, and even traps bacteria in the airways, causing infection, inflammation and lung damage.

Meanwhile, the buildup of mucus in the pancreas prevents the body from proper digestion and absorption of nutrients, potentially leading to malnutrition and poor growth.

There is no cure for cystic fibrosis, but there are drugs, therapies and treatments for those who have it, and researchers are continuing the search for more effective treatment -- and a cure.

So far, Kuhn has raised more than $3,400 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, a nonprofit with headquarters in Bethesda, Md., that funds research.

To donate to the foundation, visit Kuhn’s blog, itsallicando.wordpress.com, and click on the “Make a Difference! DONATE” button on the right side of the page.

People also can donate to help Kuhn along his trip, but should note that those donations are not tax-deductible -- and that he prefers donations to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Kuhn’s next scheduled stop was Fargo on Wednesday.

About cystic fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening genetic disorder that primarily damages the lungs and digestive system.

  • It affects about 30,000 people in the U.S. and 70,000 worldwide.
  • A defective gene causes a buildup of thick mucus in the lungs, pancreas and other organs.
  • About 10 million people in the U.S. have no symptoms, but are carriers of the defective gene.
  • Symptoms include salty-tasting skin, persistent coughing, frequent lung infections, shortness of breath, poor growth or weight gain in spite of a good appetite, frequent greasy, bulky stools or difficulty in bowel movements, and small fleshy growths in the nose.
  • There is no cure.
  • Treatments include airway clearance via a vibrating inflatable vest, which loosens and thins mucus; inhaled medications; pancreatic enzyme supplements; and a drug that treats the cause of cystic fibrosis for one small subgroup of those with the illness.

Source: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, www.cff.org

Online

  • For more information, visit David Kuhn’s blog, itsallicando.wordpress.com, or his Facebook page, facebook.com/itsallicando.
  • For more on cystic fibrosis, visit www.cff.org.
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