Francis Lewis HS assistant principal running in NYC Marathon against all odds

Photo courtesy Patrick Dunphy

One educator from Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows is running in his first marathon, the New York City Marathon, on Nov. 1 with an eye condition that could cause him to go completely blind.

Patrick Dunphy, assistant principal of the social studies department at Francis Lewis HS, was diagnosed with Stickler Syndrome, a hereditary condition that can affect the retina and deteriorate eyesight, at 16 years old.

“I began to see floaters that looked like someone had sprinkled pepper in my left eye. Thinking that it would go away, I pretty much kept it to myself,” Dunphy said. “These floaters began to grow exponentially and I continued, naively, to keep it to myself now out of some fear that it was in fact something terrible.”

It turned out that Dunphy’s retina had almost completely detached, and he required surgery to prevent it from coming off altogether.

“So now, 16 years later and the assistant principal for the social studies department at Francis Lewis High School, I had the same ordeal occur in my right eye this past summer,” he added.

Dunphy needed an additional surgery to fix his right eye. Now, with two eye surgeries under his belt, Dunphy is taking on a new challenge, running in the NYC Marathon.

“I have never run in a marathon before. I have run in seven half-marathons including the Long Island, Brooklyn and NYC. I ran cross-country at Carle Place MS/HS in Carle Place, Long Island, where I grew up and now live,” Dunphy said. “I have always felt that any marathon is the epitome of physical challenge. Doing it in the greatest city in the world is even better. My father is from Woodside. I am a [St. John’s University] graduate. I have taught in both Far Rockaway and now in Fresh Meadows and my wife is from Marine Park, Brooklyn. So, though I am not personally from the city I feel myself to be a part of it.”

Dunphy is using his diagnosis with Stickler Syndrome and participation in the NYC Marathon to run for the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), an organization that helps those with vision loss.

“I started to hate that I wasn’t running for a charity, especially given what I had gone through. I wanted to do something for someone else as so many had done for me,” he said. “I looked into AFB and I loved the shared vision they had for camaraderie and helping people through vision loss. I felt for people who lost their vision and never got it back. I hope that’s never me but AFB promoted awareness before an issue and a great life with vision loss. This is why I joined the AFB team.”

Dunphy has been training for the NYC Marathon for several months, but lost a significant amount of time due to his most recent eye surgery in July. That did not deter him, as he continued to train and prepare for the longest race he has ever run.

“I also like the discipline this type of lifestyle offers. After doing my first half marathon, I thought I’d never do another one because I felt under-conditioned,” Dunphy said. “I ended up realizing that I just needed to pay greater attention to my body and its needs in order to accomplish things like this. I hope to finish under five hours. I just really want to enjoy my first marathon.”

“I really owe a lot to my very understanding family, especially my loving wife, Stefanie,” he added. “She has kept me steady and aware of my eye issues. Also, my team, my cousin Michael Sciortino and good friend Carmine Fischetti.”

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