Courageous individuals like 23-year old Courtnay Midkiff are few and far between.
Midkiff, who lives with Fabry disease, is currently on day 160 of his journey to walk across the United States in an effort to raise awareness and support of this rare disorder.
Armed with little more than a sleeping bag, a camping tent, and the kind hearts of strangers, Midkiff has shown others that anyone can live a full, active life with Fabry disorder. “I want to empower other people living with this disease to let them know that it doesn’t have to stop them from achieving their goals,” he said.
Fabry disease is caused by a deficiency of an enzyme that clears fatty substances from the body. This can result in a number of symptoms, like the inability to sweat and chronic pains, to more severe complications, such as kidney failure, heart attacks and strokes.
Despite these realities, Midkiff remains inspiring and optimistic, hoping to show “Fabry patients worldwide that you can do anything you put your mind to.”
“Just because we have a disease does not mean we are different than anybody else,” he said.
Midkiff arrived in Phoenix on Tuesday, where he received an “awesome” response, including being honored at Chase Field before that night’s game. “That was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity, seeing myself up on the Jumbotron,” he said. “Phoenix has been a great stop for me.”
Besides kicking off Tuesday’s Diamondback’s game, Midkiff also met with local people living with Fabry disease and their families. “That’s one of my favorite things about my trip,” he said.
The origins of Midkiff’s coast-to-coast trek ultimately serve as a testament to his determination and self-reliance. He had originally planned travel with three friends, but slowly, one-by-one, they dropped out. Despite being alone, he went ahead with his intense journey.
“I think I have learned how mentally tough I really am and the perseverance that I have,” he said, citing his responsibility to the Fabry community as a whole as motivation to not give up.
In addition to learning more about himself, Midkiff has also gained a newfound appreciation for the United Stated through his travels. “The people that live here are so nice and outgoing and the country itself is beautiful,” he said. “I have never taken the time to really look around and notice that until now.”
So far, Midkiff’s journey has generated over $10,000 for the National Fabry Disease Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides education and support for people living with Fabry disease.
* Photos from The Fabrys Walkabout