Brandon Hudgins has a reputation for being a tough competitor. Coaches and fellow athletes say that he’s not afraid to kick and scratch for every race entry, sponsorship opportunity, or even for a platform to help others that are fighting Vasculitis; a disease he’s had a few bouts with.
Vasculitis is a condition that involves inflammation in the blood vessels, which could impact the arteries, veins and capillaries. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, “the disruption in blood flow caused by inflammation can damage the body’s organs. Signs and symptoms depend on which organs have been damaged and the extent of the damage.” There’s a lot of unknowns about the disease as well.
Personally, I was lucky enough to host him at the 2015 Sir Walter Miler, where he became the 448th American to break four minutes in the mile. He’s currently fighting Vasculitis again himself and we checked in to see what’s going on with him and how you can possibly help.
Checking in with Brandon Hudgins
Pat Price: Looks like you’ve had another bout with Vasculitis. What’s going on?
Brandon Hudgins: Yeah. I found out in late January, but had been suspecting it for a while. So for those that don’t know, Vasculitis isn’t curable at this time. Mine has been in remission since late 2013. My Vasculitis specifically affects my sinuses, ears, lungs, and kidneys. Plus a host of other places as I get worse. Back in late January, and early February, I could hardly walk or stand without tremendous aching and pain due to the inflammation.
PP: So are you able to run right now? What kind of medical treatment are you undergoing?
BH: I’m able to Wog (walk jog) some days. Some days my body is too busy fighting and doesn’t have the energy to exercise and I just have to rest. Other days I try to get out and either go to the gym or go for a wog for about 30-40 minutes.
As for treatment, I finished my fourth round of the antibody infusion known as Rituxan about two weeks ago. I’m still on high doses of prednisone and will be for a while.
PP: From sound of it, your treatment is pretty expensive and I saw that you’re auctioning off a few prized items to help defer costs. What’s the story on the cost of the treatment and what kind of assistance are you looking for?
BH: Each round of Rituxan cost about $13,000, just for the drug itself. Then of course you can’t get the drug not in a doctor’s office or hospital, so sitting in the chair and waiting adds to that cost. My first two rounds, before insurance, have totaled over $41,000 already. Now insurance will help with some of that, but it’s a battle with them and the hospital to make things affordable. To give you just an idea of the crazy situation our medical industry is in, the drug could be sold by Genetech to doctors with a 20% profit for $305, yet they sell it to the doctors for $3,500 and then the doctors charge patients, $12-13k depending on dose.
As for ways to help, I’m currently auctioning off the racing shorts that Sir Walter Miler provided Team NC with for the 2015 Sir Walter Miler, where I broke 4 minutes for the first time. I’m also auctioning off the shirt that I wore to warm up for races for all of 2016, including both days of the 2016 Olympic Trials. If people can’t bid on the items or don’t win, they can always visit my Athletebiz page and donate directly, or shop and we get a percentage of their items bought.
PP: So how long is this treatment expected to take?
BH: There isn’t a real timeline on it. Starting Monday, I’ll be getting bloodwork done monthly to look at my inflammation levels and disease markers. If my numbers are down (inflammation is bad), then they will start to taper me off the high dose of prednisone. If they aren’t, well that means a probable trip to somewhere like the Mayo Clinic or John Hopkins. So at this point it’s just trying to rest as much as I can, eat super healthy, exercise a little, and wait.
PP: You’ve brought a lot of attention to Vasculitis, a disease that hasn’t been as well known as others. What has it meant for you to stand up for others affected by the disease. Have you heard from people going through the same battles you are?
BH: It’s meant the world to me honestly. Running is a very selfish desire to chase and having people on #VFTB has given my selfish desire a lot of purpose. It’s no longer just about me and that’s empowering. The disease is incredibly personal and ugly for most people. It was craving someone to stand up and yell a little. It affects millions of Americans every year, yet never gets the money or attention that things like cancer do. So that my goal is to help bring it to the forefront. Because ultimately money and science will change the quality of people’s lives for the better.
With the Victory over Vasculitis campaign that we started with the foundation last year, I hear from people in all walks of life with Vasculitis on an almost daily basis. Last year over 400 people joined the email updates. This year we have a Facebook group where I challenge everyone and people post and share. So if there is anyone out there that wants to join they can search for the group with the link above.
PP: The running community is certainly pulling for you. What’s the best way to monitor your progress? And is there anything else you want to get out there?
BH: The best way to follow my journey is through social media. I’m @bhudgnasty on Twitter and Instagram. I try to post regularly. Sometimes it’s sappy and sometimes it’s motivation, but I try to give a real feel for where I’m at.
And one last thing, to all my boys out there killing it on the circuit: Be glad I got sick! I’m just spotting you a few months to get some training in!