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Amber Igodan

As a child I was born with a painful disease, Sickle Cell Anemia. Sickle Cell is a blood disorder that changes the shape of red blood cells, essentially turning them into misshaped sickle cells. Sickle Cell is commonly found in African Americans.

The journey I went through dealing with Sickle Cell requires many long stays at the hospital. At the age of two I had my spleen removed because it became enlarged, which is deadly. Hospital trips became a routine. Doctors were trying to find any solution that would keep me alive and live a somewhat healthy life. Blood transfusions had to occur in order to keep my iron levels down and my hemoglobin at a reasonable number.

babbbbyyyWhen I was only eleven years old I had a stroke. It felt like any normal day, I was at my grandmother’s house eating a lollipop then suddenly my right hand (which was holding the lollipop) felt numb. At first I thought my hand was falling asleep. My mom became very concerned then rushed me to Children’s Hospital in DC. Once I got to the hospital my memory state red to fade slowly. I can remember the nurses asking me to name the president. I responded saying George Washington, but at the time it was actually George W. Bush. The next thing I could remember was the nurses hooking me up to IV’s and trying to stop the stroke. I felt little pain, but I felt like the room was going in slow motion, and then it became difficult to speak. After spending three days in the hospital the stroke symptoms faded away, but the fear and nerves showing in my mother’s eyes were not.

At the age of twelve I began to develop gallstones. Once the doctors found this out the only thing they could do was schedule to have my gallbladder removed. Going through more than one surgery comes with a lot of emotional and physical pain/ stress.

IMG_6155I began to miss a lot of school during eighth grade of middle school and many days of high school. I couldn’t spend a lot of times with friends, because I was always sick. I also missed a lot of high school formals due to Sickle Cell. Overcoming obstacles that normally happen to adults was different. As a teenager I have always been social. But, being in hospitals all the time made me miss out on a lot of fun experiences with friends. My mother, a single parent, hated seeing me sick all the time and spent nights trying to help me ignore the pain crises.

Some advice I would tell people struggling with Sickle Cell Anemia is to never give up hope, keep faith in God, pray everyday, be thankful, and keep a positive mindset. I found myself at some very low points in life where I just didn’t want to endure any more pain. I became very depressed at a young age. Depression is not healthy, especially for a adolescent. I started to get crazy mood swings, I became angry at my mother almost everyday for no reason, and I was very envious towards my peers. I was going through a hard stage in life. Experiencing pain crises almost everyday took a large toll on me, not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Children’s National Hospital in Washington, DC allowed me to receive a therapist. The therapist was extremely helpful. She allowed me to speak about everything that was on my mind, any worries/ concerns I had, and she also gave me tips on how I can relax when I feel upset/ angry. Taking tips from the therapist and praying helped me get through the hardships of Sickle Cell. Although it is hard to stay positive while having a disease it is essential because without being positive while experiencing all these struggles one will mentally and emotionally breakdown.

 

IMG_0302Currently I am doing much better and I am more healthier than before. Now I am nineteen years old attending George Mason University as a full time student. Being healthy mentally and physically was not easy to achieve. I had to do many techniques in order to live a better lifestyle mentally and physically. In high school I was still sick, but I wanted to push myself to get more involved with my peers. During high school I began to participate in sports; field hockey and cheer leading every year. Some say that Sickle Cell patients should not participate in sports because it tires the body and will cause more pain than happiness, but I do not believe in that. I became captain in both sports for two years. As for college, I became more active in extracurricular activities, such as clubs; Black Student Alliance and African Student Association. By participating in sports and extracurricular activities (two of which I enjoy a lot) allowed my mental state to become more clear, focused, and happy. I was able to engage with my peers more, speak on different topics while being in a club, and taking on leadership roles while participating in sports.

I would recommend to people suffering with Sickle Cell Anemia to be social, join clubs, and sports. By doing so you will get more interaction with peers instead of being a homebody. As for physically, the techniques I would recommended my fellow Sickle Cell patients is to exercise regularly. It is hard to get out there and working out because your body goes through many crises while having Sickle Cell, but weight gain does occur so if one would like to reduce their body weight exercise would be helpful. Also, Sickle Cell patients take an abundance of medication daily, so I would recommend to take your medication when told and do not skip taking it. I personally hate taking medication. I have before skipped taking medication then I began to feel negative body changes, my hemoglobin levels would increase/ decrease rapidly, and crises would occur frequently. After those physical changes I made sure I took all my medication on time for the days it was prescribed. I am a product of experiencing some of the worst possible pains Sickle Cell can throw at you. One must stay hopeful and positive while trying to maintain a healthy life while having a disease.

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