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Violinist for a cause: Vasculitis awareness

By Allison Lint, Special to CNN
updated 11:21 AM EST, Wed February 26, 2014
  • Allison Lint was diagnosed with vasculitis at age 16
  • "I wanted to bring information and hope" to sufferers, she says
  • Lint founded the nonprofit Violin for Vasculitis

Editor's note: In the Human Factor, we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle -- injury, illness or other hardship -- they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn't know they possessed. This week we meet Allison Lint, who plans to play her violin in all 50 states, to raise awareness for vasculitis, a disease she's been living with since she was a teenager.

(CNN) -- I am a professional musician in northeast Ohio, where I teach private lessons at two independent music schools, perform in the Akron Symphony Orchestra and freelance in the Cleveland/Akron area.

In my spare time, I travel the country raising awareness for the nonprofit project Violin for Vasculitis (V4V), which has brought a story of hope and inspiration to hundreds of music lovers and vasculitis patients nationwide.

It all began at the age of 16, when I began to show symptoms of illness: severe respiratory problems, fatigue and -- most alarmingly -- a cough that brought up blood.

It was determined that I had been suffering a prolonged lung hemorrhage, and it would be four months, three hospital visits and one two-week sedation period before doctors would finally reach a diagnosis: Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (GPA/Wegener's), a rare type of vascular autoimmune disease.

With the help of the Cleveland Clinic medical staff, the Vasculitis Foundation, my local chapter support group and the friends and family who knew me best, I was able to find the information I needed and gain the strength to continue with my life while fighting an uncommon chronic illness.

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In 2011, I realized it was not enough to simply survive with vasculitis. I wanted to bring information and hope to others who also struggled, and let them discover that they were not alone.

At the encouragement of a friend who suggested I "do something that no one has done before," I founded Violin for Vasculitis with its far-reaching travel plan and mission of nationwide awareness.

Within weeks of beginning the project, I had the full support of doctors, professors, colleagues, members of the vasculitis community and musicians around the globe. V4V has performed in 12 states, with several events scheduled for 2014.

Today I am closely monitored by a team of doctors at the Cleveland Clinic, and I have been in and out of remission several times. I balance an unconventional musician's lifestyle with the necessary precautions of diet, sleep, exercise and medications that my body needs to keep functioning well.

Through V4V I have found a purpose, both in my performance and in my once-tragic diagnosis. Using my talent for a cause has led me to meet interesting people, gain a broader understanding of what vasculitis is, and find personal fulfillment in my music.

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