GUILDERLAND, N.Y. – Two Guilderland High School freshmen will race across the Boston Harbor in the Boston Sharkfest Swim Saturday, but winning won’t be their only goal.
Swimming is second nature to 14-year-old Michael Ardito. But when he swims across the Boston Harbor on Saturday, each stroke will be special.
“Focusing my time on doing good for other people that I really truly care about,” he said.
People like his stepfather John Harrington and little sister Katie who are both living with Hereditary Angioderma, or HAE, a disease that causes extreme swelling throughout the body.
“It’s pretty painful,” John said. “They’ve compared – when your stomach swells – they’ve compared that to a gunshot wound. It’s unbelievable pain.”
It’s often misdiagnosed for years.
“It was an old song and dance,” John described. “You go to the emergency room. They attribute it to something you either ate or a spider bite, but eventually you gotta think how many spiders are biting me.”
John was diagnosed in his late 20s after falling into a coma during an episode.
“I’ve dealt with it forever, but it’s for my daughter; she’s the one I worry about,” he said.
“Um, it’s pretty scary,” Michael said. “Luckily she hasn’t had any symptoms, yet, but most symptoms normally start around puberty. So I’m just really hoping and trying to raise money and awareness, so they can find a cure before she starts having symptoms.”
Michael and his friend Luke Tanner have been fundraising and will continue to accept donations through September. They’ve already raised nearly $8,000.
“I feel like awareness is more important than donations at the moment just cause no one knows of this disease,” Michael said. “When I talk to people about it, most of the people ask what’s that disease or what does it do?”
“These two kids – cause they’re kids – they’re swimming across the Boston Harbor for this disease. It’s just unbelievable to me. I don’t know anybody else who would do that except these two,” John said.
Click here to donate in support of Michael’s and Luke’s efforts to raise money and awareness of HAE.