October 19, 2015

To those with sickle cell anemia: You’re not alone


“The only person you need to be better than is the person you were yesterday.” – Davontez Ragland, 13

Sickle cell anemia is a blood disorder passed down through African-American ancestry. More than 100,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with this disease. How do I feel about that? Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one with this disease, but I’m not.

My name is Davontez Ragland, I’m 13, and I’ve been with the Vanderbilt team my whole life. I come here at least every three to four weeks or so for a chronic blood transfusion. That’s when I get my “sickled blood” replaced with healthier blood. Your blood cells are round and circle-ish but sickle cell patients’ cells are shaped as a sickle, or you could say a banana. They become clogged in a blood vessel, and the cells cannot go where they need to go. This can cause severe exhaustion or fatal symptoms.

I keep active by exercising, of course. When I say exercise, I don’t mean to push myself until I can’t anymore. I just stay active and healthy. Every single day, I walk around my neighborhood for at least 45 minutes. This way I can stay in shape.

The most important part about sickle cell is to always drink water! Hydration is the most important part about being or getting active, period. I unfortunately cannot participate in contact sports such as football, basketball or wrestling. I was really sad and upset about that. I went to the coach and told him why I was upset, and he made a way for me to still be on the team. He gave me a job to be manager of our school’s football team! The reason I am telling you this is because there is always a way. Most people think sickle cell is a bad thing but really it is not so bad.

Before, I mentioned how I found out that there are a lot more people like me. Well, two years ago I heard of this camp in Scottsville, Kentucky, called Center for Courageous Kids. At first I was a little skeptical about going camping because I’m not very much of a woods guy, but you never know the future until you create it, so I decided to go.

It was amazing meeting more than 300 kids just like me. I was speechless! When I’m there, I feel like a whole new person around people who feel what I’m going through. CCK has awesome activities you can choose from. They’re so helpful and use teamwork to solve every problem. I go to CCK twice every year. You can come to CCK, too. Even if you feel you are alone, you’re not!

Davontez’ ways to take care of yourself

• Stay hydrated.
• Exercise at least 15-35 minutes a day.
• Always take needed medication.
• Once you strive for success, you are doing your best.
• Drink plenty of water; make sure to take a bottle along with you.
• Find activities that fit you.
• Be you!

Learn more about sickle cell through the Vanderbilt-Meharry-Matthew Walker Center of Excellence in Sickle Cell Disease at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.