Mar. 15, 2017
Rare Impact Award
For 20 years, Brandon Hudgins has chased his dreams of being an elite athlete and has put the demanding sport of competitive running at the center of his life. Yet in September 2007, as a Division I college athlete attending Winthrop University, running became difficult when he began to experience health issues, breathing trouble, and a lack of energy. He suddenly went from being one of the fastest runners on the team to the slowest, and remembers needing to drag himself between bed and class. He also experienced a 70 percent hearing loss in one ear and a 90 percent loss in the other.
Several months later, in April 2008, Brandon was diagnosed with a type of vasculitis, a rare condition that involves inflammation of blood vessels, cutting off vital blood supply to tissues and organs. As he received treatment, he continuously told himself that he would get back to running. Finally, after being cleared by his doctor that December, Brandon picked himself up and resumed training.
After this health scare, Brandon saw considerable success in his running. He became one of only 449 Americans to race a mile in under four minutes and earned a spot in the 2016 Olympic Trials. It was at this point, upon reaching the pinnacle of his sport, that he seized the spotlight as an opportunity to stand up and give others with vasculitis a voice.
“I didn’t talk about it for the longest time,” Brandon remembers. “Vasculitis is so personal. It gets ugly at times.”
Brandon now leads a campaign called “Victory over Vasculitis” to inspire others to feel larger than their disease diagnosis and to create more awareness. The campaign has been successful in filling a void that the community needed, Brandon says, and “the response is overwhelming sometimes. I get a lot of messages from other patients…people pouring their hearts out. That means a lot, which is why I can’t stop now.”
While Brandon is not sure of what will come next because he does not know what his health will bring, he knows that he will not stop raising awareness and trying to reach more and more people. He add, “This isn’t just me; this is all of us. I challenge all of us, all of the time, to inspire each other, and challenge each other to live the life that we want to live.”
NORD is honored to present Brandon Hudgins with a 2017 Rare Impact Award.