This week’s Warrior in the Spotlight is Bridgett DeShae’ Wright-Willkie. She lives in Orlando, FL with her husband and daughter. Bridgett very candidly shares her life and experiences as a sickle cell warrior. Buckle up for the ride…
- How old where you when you found out you had sickle cell? I had my 1st crisis at 3 years old, and several after that but I wasn’t officially diagnosed until I was 17! My pediatrician had misdiagnosed me as having “Growing Pains”, so finally getting my diagnosis actually put a name to what I had been struggling with my whole life…It all made sense to us then.
- Okay, your pediatrician totally sucked! You had sickle cell and didn’t know it for 17 years? That’s crazy!!! How did your childhood and your parents influence you in your choice of career? Well after joining the U.S Air Force and choosing Air Traffic Control and them testing my blood under an extra conditions. They found out about the SCD ( I was trying to sneak through…lol) I started out going to community college then went to Florida A & M University for Architecture but when I realized that it took 2 days to make up for every day that I’d miss, I changed my major to Journalism minoring in Graphic Arts. I tried working , mostly in Customer Service but could never get through the probation period of 3-6 months before having a crisis. I then decided to start my own Support center for SCD, here in my hometown and and still in the process of getting it up and running… I’ll keep you posted on it’s progress. I have LIFE experience because can’t NOBODY tell you what to expect or comfort another person with SCD if they themselves havn’t been through the things that we go through.
- You are totally right with that Bridget. Starting up a sickle cell center can be a demanding thing. Describe a typical day on your job. Right now, I just go with the flow. I try to encourage others that are going through this painful and misunderstood condition. If they have a need that I can meet I’ll do what I can.
- Wow, the sickle cell warriors in Orlando are very lucky to have you. How were you able to cope with school and sickle cell? Being that I was unaware of my SCD until the 11th grade, I was treated and looked upon as a slacker or underachiever despite my involvement in SECME AAU AEP OJT and other groups in school. I played softball in middle school for the city and I was a Cheerleader for Pop-Warner. In High School, I was an Athletic Trainer for the Football Teams and a Statistician for the Boy’s Basketball Teams after the diagnosis at the beginning of my 11th grade year my Teachers and Principal were very understanding.
- It sounds like once you found your groove in school you didn’t let sickle cell keep you down. How do you manage SCD and still maintain a thriving career? My “career” is a Full-time Wife & Mother and with the husband that I have been Blessed with is completely understanding and really makes it very easy for me to have my “ME” time and I couldn’t picture my life any better.
- Awwww, that’s so sweet! While you were working, did you notice a difference in how your coworkers treated you once they know you have SCD? When I was working , I guess that I was so open about it… I made it known to them to feel free to ask me anything that they wanted to know about it.
- What advice would you give to someone wanting to join your profession that has sickle cell? Being a sickle cell advocate is the best job that they could have. They are already equipped with the tools of the trade…imprinted in their DNA.
- Has sickle cell limited any areas of your life? I feel that not being able to finish my degree but maybe it just wasn’t the right school or program or it could have been the wrong time in my life. I will be pursuing a B.S. in Alternative Medicine @ the beginning of the year and that will be the 2nd most important success of my life, the 1st was maintaining my Family.
- When you do reach obstacles in your life, what helps you through it? I pick myself up by the bootstraps just by knowing what God has brought me through. I know that there are so many others, who are in FAR worse condition than myself. I know what I’m dealing with and I’ve asked God to give me the coping skills to deal with whatever may come with this Sickle Cell, My Faith in Him reassures me that I’ll be aight !!!
- Do you have regular pain (more than 2x a week)? How do you cope with this when you are working? As a result of most of my crisis’ originating in my back, my back pain is what I deal with on a daily basis. My husband massages and rubs my back and I use heat therapy as well…these are what works for me
- What medications do you take when you are in pain? I take elephant doses of Oxycodone & Oxycontin everyday. It’s ridiculous…
- What is your daily medication regimen?100mg/OxyContin every 8 hours and 60 mg/OxyCodone every 4-6 hours on top of that for breakthrough pain… I take 3mg Folic acid and 800mg/Motrin as needed
- How has sickle cell affected your personal life? For example, are you in a relationship, do you have kids, etc.? I keep my circle of trusted friends really tight because a lot of people are not willing to show unconditional love. I have decided to let some people go that were TOXIC to my health or b/c of their selfishness or lack of RESPECT for my relationship. I’ve been with my husband Radz for almost 10 years, married for 4 years and we have a lil’ gyrl Adaran who will be 5 on Sept 1st. She has the trait but my husband does not. I would like to have another child b/c I am the baby of 6 kids, he is an only child and I would like for my baby to have a brother/sister.
- Looking at the 14 year old version of yourself, what would you tell him or her if you could…? I would say, Don’t worry child, you’re going to live a full life with a husband and a baby girl that will be healthy! I would also tell me to have hope that a cure a close at hand, b/c we’re gonna bank the cord blood from that miracle child that is in my future, and one day those Stem Cells are gonna reverse this condition that I’m going through!!!!!
- Is there anything else that you would want to tell other sickle cell warriors? If you do not have an Advocate, become your own by arming yourself with KNOWLEDGE…Knowledge is something that can not be taken from you once you’ve acquired it. Once you go in that Dr.’s office and start to ask and probe them or that hospital room and let them know that you may not have an PHD behind your name but that you have taken the initiative to seek out for yourself the truth of your Sickle Cell. You will be quite surprised with the way you are treated from that point on!!! Learn the Hospital Etiquette (dialect), so that you can have the nurse or staff relay if/when there is an issue concerning your care. This is very important.
Thank you so much for doing this interview Bridgett. It was a pleasure to meet you. To all the warriors out there, please visit the APEX Museum and support the African American Panoramic Experience.