May 20, 2013

Rare disease doesn't defeat Moriah native

Genetic ailment doesn't defeat Moriah native

MORIAH — Sitting in a car across from an insurance claimant’s home, Moriah native Johnathan Harrington brings a digital video camera with telephoto lens up to one eye.

As the allegedly disabled claimant exits the home, Harrington presses the shutter release and records her while she gets into her car and drives away.

“She said in her disability claim she was in agonizing pain and could not drive,” he said in an interview with the Press-Republican recently. “But she’s doing fine today.”


Harrington, 31, is a private investigator in the Capital District; the fact that he can work at all is a tribute to modern medicine — along with his self-reliance and determination.

He has hereditary angioedema (HAE), a rare and potentially life-threatening genetic condition that can cause episodes of swelling in various body parts, including the hands, feet, face and airways.

“All the males in my family have it: my father, my grandfather, my two brothers and their two sons,” he said. 

Harrington grew up in Moriah and attended Plattsburgh State. 

He worked at Mountain Lake Services in Ticonderoga then relocated to Guilderland, where he enjoys his investigator’s job a lot — even though much of it is surveillance work that means long hours sitting in a car and eating fast food for meals.

“Being a PI doesn’t sound like much, but the excitement gets your blood pumping.”


When the HAE symptoms first hit him as a youth, doctors weren’t sure what it was.

“I had facial swelling. When I went to the ER, they attributed it to a spider bite. The drugs they gave me never did anything.”

Then an episode in 2008 put him in a coma, he said, even though by that time he knew what it was.

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