Inspired by the passion of those in the performing arts in the Cleveland area, THE HEART OF THE ARTS series showcases the causes of our local artists OFF the stage. Get educated, get inspired, get involved!
ALLISON LINT currently resides in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and has lived in the Akron/Cleveland her whole life. A violinist since the age of 7, Allison was diagnosed with a form of vasculitis called Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (Wegener’s). Her symptoms began in high school – first as a cold/flu, but it quickly progressed to a severe respiratory infection. Over the course of just a few months, it spiraled out of control and led to a lung hemorrhage, putting her in the hospital for 2 1/2 weeks. Allison spent that time in a medically-induced coma.
“Any type of vasculitis is considered a rare chronic illness, and has no cure,” she explains. “It is an auto-immune disorder that causes inflammation of the blood vessels. It is a systemic disease that affects particular organs in the body; in my case it affects my lungs and kidneys, though many patients also experience symptoms of the skin, sinuses, or nervous system. There are 3 million people who suffer from it annually; my form in particular affects about 20,000 to 30,000 people per year. There are 500 new cases being diagnosed every year, as awareness is spread, and doctors and researchers learn more about the condition.”
Allison also plays the piano, but her heart lies with the violin. She decided to use this passion to bring awareness to her illness. This one-time member of the Akron Youth Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra, and the Cleveland Institute of Music’s Young Artist Program is now playing for a cause. Her bachelor’s degree in violin performance and minor in music history from Oberlin Conservatory has served her well in her advocacy – she’s now a spokesperson for the Vasculitis Foundation and has founded a project called Violin for Vasculitis. Over a three- to four-year period, she plans to travel to every state in the U.S., where she’ll give a benefit concert that will include an audience education on the condition of vasculitis.
“I began Violin for Vasculitis earlier this year through my desire to reach out to the community – and the entire country – about the dangers of vascular disease. Many people are interested to hear what I have to say when it is coupled with music. They see how I have recovered and am able to live my dream of performing onstage – even with my rare condition. I am thankful to be able to use music to share my story with others who may not know about vasculitis. I plan to remain an advocate long after Violin for Vasculitis has seen all 50 states,” Allison says.
Her tour will begin in Cleveland and she is scheduled to continue on to Colorado, Tennessee, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and Utah.
“I choose to utilize music to give people the connection of the arts. No matter where you go, most audiences can appreciate a music concert. My initiative to travel to all 50 states is very large in scope, but I’ve found that people will stop to listen. And in this way I’m reaching people, music lovers, who may not necessarily be educated on vasculitis.”
So how is her body reacting to all of this hard work? Allison is currently in remission.
“I was formally diagnosed with GPA (Wegener’s) at the Cleveland Clinic in May of 2005. Since then, I have been exposed to several different treatments until we found the one that worked for my body. I am currently in remission, with a 50% chance of a relapse in my lifetime. I am on maintenance drugs as well as getting blood work done once a month. Though I need to take caution around those with contagious diseases, I am otherwise happy and healthy, and have not experienced a hemorrhage since the initial attack.”
Allison says that anyone can support a cause and that the key to advocacy is making it fun. Some people fund raise, some host events, others donate time, talents or money. Regardless of the cause, everyone can pitch in and help overcome life’s different challenges with a smile and some creativity.
To learn more about vasculitis and its many forms, visit www.vasculitisfoundation.org. Donations can also be made here to benefit the Vasculitis Foundation.
To learn more about Violin for Vasculitis, visit Allison’s Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/violin4vasculitis.
Do you have a cause that you support with your art? Contact Cleveland Performing Arts Examiner, KATE MILLER at [email protected].