October 19, 2015

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

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“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 anemia in children 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 anemia in children 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.

The Vanderbilt-Meharry-Matthew Walker Center of Excellence in Sickle Cell Disease brings together primary care providers and specialists from local institutions under one roof to treat individuals with sickle cell disease, creating a medical home for life-long care and support.

Learn More