This week on #playtismart, I’d like to introduce my friend Barry Haarde to our #playitsmart campaign. Barry is a dedicated cyclist and fundraiser. So far, in his career, he has ridden his bike across the United States FOUR TIMES and raised over $150,000 for Save One Life. Those feats alone are pretty incredible, even more so when you learn that Barry has completed them with severe hemophilia, HIV, and Hepatitis C.
I met Barry in 2013 at the end of his second ride across America, shortly after I completed my Aconcagua climb. We had both just finished amazing physical feats but our journeys were drastically different.
Unlike hemophilia today, Barry was born before factor concentrate. Life before factor was extremely difficult. For Barry, each bleed meant driving over an hour to the closest Hemophilia Treatment Center (HTC) where he would have to be admitted and treated on site. Once factor finally became available, treatments shifted to Barry’s home and life was more or less normal. Hemophilia was easier to manage, at least.
But convenience came with a cost. At the time, factor concentrate was made from large pools of donated plasma. This “miracle drug” that the hemophilia community was so excited for was often tainted with HIV and Hepatitis C. Over 10,000 people with bleeding disorders lost their lives due to this contamination. Barry was among those infected; his brother, sadly, among those that lost their lives.
Even before he was infected, Barry struggled with being active. Sure, the factor made it easier to treat a bleed but it didn’t mean those bleeds were any less painful. As anyone with hemophilia knows, it can be very easy to feel incapable of participating in your life for fear of injury. “In my 20’s and 30’s I was a confirmed and documented couch potato,” Barry recalls.
It wasn’t until a desperately needed knee replacement that Barry even considered cycling. “My doctor told me I needed to build some muscle around my knee before the surgery so recovery would be easier and he suggested biking for that.” He struggled to complete 25 miles in those days but after a successful knee surgery and months of rehab, he realized he could bike more without having knee bleeds. “For the first time in my life I could be an athlete and get away with it! I was looking forward to doing longer multi-day rides.”
Just a few years after his knee replacement, Barry’s brother passed away and Barry found out he had cirrhosis of the liver from Hepatitis C. This was devastating for him. Years of difficult treatments kept him off his bike and threatened to crush his newfound athletic spirit. But Barry refused to be a couch potato again. He finished his treatments with a vengeance and a newfound goal: to ride his bike across the entire United States!
Here is where our stories align. Like myself, Barry wanted his achievement to be about more than personal achievement. He wanted to do something great and challenging to raise awareness for those living with hemophilia around the globe. Similarly, I wanted to share the hardships and victories of those within the bleeding disorder community and support their journey through feats of education, endurance, and empowerment. Combined, Barry’s rides and my climbs have been in support of Save One Life, an international hemophilia non-profit, and raised a total of over $200,000!
Barry is nowhere close to being done - and neither am I. His biggest undertaking is coming up this summer. He will, once again, be riding his bike across the country but this time he will not only go west-to-east but also north-to-south covering over 5,000 miles. 5,000 MILES!
Barry is able to #playitsmart while completing his incredible goals with great preparation. He begins training months before his trips begin, starting out slow with shorter rides and gradually increasing the distance and frequency. He also always has factor with him in case of an emergency- like on his last ride across America when he was hit by a car. Fortunately, since he played it smart, he was able to get treatment quickly and keep going.
And that’s typical Barry, never letting an accident or misfortune keep him down for long! Keep it up, buddy! You can support his amazing adventure here.