My name is Bree Person. I live in the South Bronx. I am a senior in high school, and my future plans are to go away to college and be successful—at what? I’m not sure ...
My name is Bree Person, I have Sickle Cell Anemia, and I’ve had it since the day I was born—17 years ago. Despite what some of my friends think, Sickle Cell is not a disease you can get rid of! It’s a genetic disease where red blood cells, which are normally shaped like discs, form a sickle, or crescent shape. Almost everyone who has Sickle Cell has painful episodes, called crises, that can last from hours to days. September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month and I thought I’d take the time to remember my uncle.
Uncle Jhonnie was a very caring and hilarious person. He would make me laugh at any joke he said. Even when he was sick, lying in his hospital bed, he’d say jokingly, “I don’t need to be here.” Sickle Cell is something we have in common, and he would often come visit me when I was in the hospital and joke about ways to help me sneak out. Sometimes he was actually a patient during those visits to my room and would tell me that I got him sick. I would laugh and say, “Yeah, okay Uncle Jhonnie.” He played a big part in helping me through those crises.
He also taught me a lot. Like I said, Uncle Jhonnie was funny, but when it came to actual treatment in the hospital, he was stern. He would demand the medicine he needed to get better. He wanted the best nurses putting a needle in his arm for his I.V. It took me a while to see why that was important.
One time I found myself sitting on a hospital bed with three nurses surrounding me trying over and over to give me my I.V. It was painful but it helped me to think back on how much my Uncle would put up with and what he taught me. I snatched my arm away and said, “I don’t want anymore needles!” They tried to get my arm back, but I spoke even louder and jerked away from them to show that this was enough. I knew I had to stand up for myself, especially when it came to my well being. They brought in a doctor to give me my needle, and that was that. Just one of life’s lessons he taught me.
In June 2008, my Uncle passed away from the disease. Seeing him go through the same pains as me and watching him fight to the end, gives me strength to overcome my pain today. I learned to be patient with people who do not know about the disease. He has been a role model for me and still is.
Over the years I’ve been faced with many challenges that have affected my school and social life. In honor of Uncle Jhonnie and Sickle Cell Awareness Month I want to share, 5 things any teenager living with Sickle Cell should know! Here are some ways I’ve learned to cope:
Want to learn more about Sickle Cell? Head over to the Sickle Cell Thalassemia Patients Network and become AWARE!
Stay tuned to hear Bree's radio story on growing up with Sickle Cell. Coming soon!