In each issue of HemAware, we spotlight people in the bleeding disorders community. Here, we talk to Skylar Lobdell, a 21-year-old from Elmore, Vermont, about his passion for distance running and his experience living abroad. Skylar has severe hemophilia A.
When did you start running?
I started running in the sixth grade when I joined my middle school cross country and track teams. I’d played baseball and soccer, but to be honest, I wasn’t terribly good at either. Since I could run around the bases or across the field quickly enough, I thought I might be a little better at just running as a sport. Once I began running longer distances, I came to really enjoy it. Although running is an individual sport, you bond with your teammates very intensely during training. I really enjoy this aspect of the sport, and for me it is very important to run with other people. Being stuck with someone on a long run gives you little choice but to get to know each other.
How do you manage your bleeding disorder while engaging in athletic activity?
I need to make sure that I am doing my prophylactic treatments on schedule and paying attention to what my body is telling me. If I feel like I might be developing or am about to develop a bleed, I treat right away, and then I take a little time to rest. It’s also important to plan your schedule carefully so that you can maximize the effectiveness of treatments. If I know that I have a big event coming up—a longer or more difficult race, for instance—I will adjust my schedule so that I infuse right before the event.
You’re currently studying abroad at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. How did you prepare for that with a bleeding disorder?
Traveling with hemophilia requires careful consideration. Access to care in the UK is relatively easy, because as a student, I qualify for the National Health Service (NHS), which is able to provide me with clotting factor. Before coming over, I did some research to find out if I would be covered by the NHS while studying, and located the nearest hemophilia treatment center (HTC). Locating HTCs is important no matter where you are traveling. Whenever I go to a new place, I always find out where the closest HTC is in case of emergency. I also always bring an ample supply of clotting factor, as this can often be difficult to obtain in a foreign country.
Are there any differences between care and treatment in the US and Scotland?
The only major difference is that because the UK uses the NHS instead of private healthcare providers, the government has contracted a single company to provide clotting factor. This meant that I did have to change products when I came over. But I have been perfectly satisfied with the treatment I am on now. The system seems to work quite well.
Do you have any advice for anyone your age who is concerned about participating in sports while having a bleeding disorder?
Don’t think of yourself as being limited by your bleeding disorder. Obviously there are some sports that are probably not a good idea for a person with hemophilia. These are mostly high-impact sports with a relatively substantial risk of injury, even for people without a bleeding disorder. I’ve found that as long as I am careful about what I do and stay on top of my treatment plan, it is relatively easy to overcome any concerns or perceived limitations. If something seems interesting, get out there and give it a try!