(WJBK) - A Michigan man who struggled with frequent nosebleeds his entire life didn't find out what was wrong until he was 15 years old and facing death.
"I was pretty much on my death bed," remembers Anthony Anzell. "On the third ER when they took a CAT scan on my brain, and they found that a fourth of my brain was covered in abscess. ... I was immediately rushed to the hospital - to another hospital - and went in for brain surgery. Over two weeks' time, I had three brain surgeries for the abscess in my brain, a liver surgery for the abscess that had spread to my liver, and then a lung surgery," says Anthony.
Fortunately for Anthony, doctors finally figured out when he was a sophomore in high school that he had HHT, which stands for hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia. It's a disease that often goes undiagnosed or is misdiagnosed, and that can have deadly consequences.
"HHT is a genetic disease characterized by a tangle of blood vessles that can occur in different organs in the body," explains Marianne Clancy, executive curector at Cure HHT.
Patients with HHT have frequent nose bleeds and small red dots on their finger tips and other parts of the body. The disease affects people from all racial and ethnic groups. Ninety percent of the people living with HHT don't even know they have it. That's something Anthony is determined to change.
The now-24-year-old student at Wayne State University is running 50 miles to raise awareness and money for HHT research.
"The training is pretty intense. I usually train for about two hours a day six days a week," he says. "My parents raised me that whenever there was a wall in front of us, we either hopped over it or broke through it."
Those parents couldn't be prouder of their son, who spends 12 hours a day in the lab studying for his doctorate in physiology and the rest of his time training.
"The doctors told him there many things he was not going to be able to do and he has managed to conquer them all and exceed," says his mother, Kim Anzell.
"When he was in the hospital with his disease, he actually flatlined.That scared the hell out me, but that wasn't in his picture," says his father, Roy Anzell.
Anthony will tackle the ultrmarathon which begins in Pinckney and fittingly ends in Hell, Michigan on Saturday.
"I want to show patients with HHT and anyone with any type of ailment that you can still live the life you want to," Anthony says. "Your life is yours."
You can support his mission by checking out his Cure HHT team page here.