April 2012 Volume 9

Living with Sickle-Cell Anemia

Dr. Glen Laman
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Gregory Richards is the 21-year-old son of Atlanta KC Old Boy, Garey Richards.  Gregory was born in Kingston, Jamaica. He was diagnosed at birth with Sickle-Cell Anemia, an inherited disease that mainly affects persons of African and Mediterranean descent. His red blood cells are sickle-shaped (shaped like a crescent).

The affected cells are stiff and sticky and they tend to block blood flow in the blood vessels of the limbs and organs resulting in pain, serious infections, and organ damage when tissues do not receive sufficient oxygen.

The following is an exclusive interview Gregory gave the KC Times:

What are the main symptoms you experience?
The main symptoms have been extensive pain crises; I have also had bronchitis, and acute chest syndrome.

How often do you have these crises?

I can have episodes at any time but severe ones that require me to go to the hospital occur every two to three months.  I can deal with minor attacks at home but the crises keep me in hospital for about one week each occurrence.

What are your treatments like?

 A lot of needles--but they’re necessary. Sometimes I don’t remember everything, but that also means I get to forget the pain.

What is the worst thing about the treatment?

The injections and the time it takes to get treated.

How does it affect your schooling?

I miss a good bit of school due to sickle-cell, it makes it difficult to stay on track, I sometimes fall behind and have to play catch up which doubles or even triples the workload.

How do your friends and classmates react to it?

Most friends try to be understanding and supportive, hopeful for a speedy recovery.

What is the worst thing about having sickle-cell anemia?

Aside from the pain…I would say falling behind/recovery; it kind of just puts everything on pause and then it all comes hurdling at you when you are back on your feet.

How do you feel about the disease?

Personally I sort of look at it as another of life’s tests or challenges. It is said, “God won’t give you anything you can’t handle.” So a lot of times you just have to remember to push through because something great must be waiting.

How has it caused you to live your life differently?

 I have to be a lot more cautious and aware.  I have to pay attention to my activity, and know that not everything is for me.

 Who else in your family has it?

 My older brother also has the same form of sickle cell as I do.

Where do you go to school?

 I am currently attending Southern Polytechnic State University.

Have you been able to work?

Yes. I started a business called Style Is Serene Clothing and I have had jobs but I have difficulty keeping them because of the frequent medical crises that I have to deal with. This is a real problem. If anyone can assist me in the area of employment I would be most grateful.

What are your hobbies?  What foods do you like?  Music?

I like a lot of things: soccer, skateboarding, art, architecture, and fashion.  I like mostly all food so far, and am a fan of music with substance, reggae, hip-hop, jazz, a lot of stuff.

What is your goal in life?

 My most realistic goal is to make it to the point in life where I can live comfortably and provide for and support the people that matter to me!

What would you like people to know about sickle cell anemia?

 I WOULD LIKE FOR THEM TO KNOW THAT SICKLE-CELL IS NOT A WALK IN THE PARK!  A lot of people seem to be under the impression that it is over-exaggerated. I sometimes don’t think it’s emphasized enough, just because you might not be able to see the effects on the outside is no reason to deny the severity. THE PAIN IS REAL and really painful.

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