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Blind man, woman with cystic fibrosis join efforts to raise awareness, funds

David Kuhn, a blind man from DeKalb, Ill., runs with the aid of Connor Lewis of Barnesville, Minn., at Cheney Middle School in West Fargo, N.D., on Thursday, July 31, 2014. Kuhn is running 11,000 miles this summer to raise awareness for cystic fibrosis, a disease his granddaughter and Lewis both live with. Nick Wagner / The Forum

WEST FARGO – A blind man and a woman with cystic fibrosis round the running track at Cheney Middle School here.

Connor Lewis, 21, Comstock, Minn., has the non-curable genetic disease.

David Kuhn, a 62-year-old blind grandfather of four, does not. But his granddaughter Kylie, 12, does.

That’s why he’s running 11,000 miles in 18 months to raise awareness and money for cystic fibrosis.

Lewis read about Kuhn in a recent story appearing in the Jamestown Sun newspaper, also owned by Forum Communications Co.

On Thursday, she caught up with Kuhn, who runs 20 miles a day.

Kuhn, of DeKalb, Ill., lost his eyesight gradually after being hit by a drunken driver when he was 29.

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

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

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.

“It’s something I really wanted to do,” said Lewis, who logged three to four miles with Kuhn.

Lewis plans a career in cystic fibrosis research.

The 2011 Barnesville, Minn., graduate is attending the University of Minnesota at Morris to earn a double degree in mathematics and statistics.

“My plan is to obtain a doctorate degree in biostatistics and use that degree to further cystic fibrosis research,” Lewis said.

Living with the disease requires daily maintenance. Twice daily for 30 minutes, she straps on a vest that airs up and compresses at different speeds to draw mucus from her lungs.

Add to that a strict regimen of medications and vitamins.

“I just try to maintain being healthy,” Lewis said. “Exercise helps a ton. I’ve noticed when I’m working out that I can breathe so much easier.”

“It’s one thing to talk about cystic fibrosis,” Kuhn said. “She lives it.”

Lewis commends Kuhn for what he is doing.

“Anything that raises awareness about cystic fibrosis I think is great,” she said.

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease contracted at birth that affects 70,000 people worldwide.

It’s caused by a defective gene that causes a buildup of thick mucus in the lungs, pancreas and other organs.

“All of my grandchildren have the gene. One has the disease,” Kuhn said.

“I want to extend my granddaughter’s lifespan as long as I can.”  

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

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.

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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