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Interview with a Medical Doctor with Sickle Cell Disease

Interview with a Medical Doctor with Sickle Cell Disease

I have decided to do a spotlight series on the careers possible for those with sickle cell. If you would like to be featured, please follow the instructions HERE.  You all know that I am a nurse, but I would like to seize this opportunity to introduce you to the one and only, amazing, and inspiring, Dr. Y, who has graciously done this interview.

SCW: Dr. Y, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Let’s start from the beginning, how old were you when you found out you had sickle cell?
I was 4 yrs old. The doctors initially thought I had appendicitis.

SCW: I guess we all find this out at a young age. Your parents instilled in you that you can do anything you set your heart and mind to. Has this always been true?

Pretty much. My parents raised me just like my siblings without sickle cell disease. Growing up in Nigeria, I used to be out of school for ~ 6 months out of the year. Yes, I has SSD but no excuses allowed. School was important and I was expected to catch up with my classmates. When I wasn’t sick I had to do everything everyone else did: cleaned the house, washed clothes, cooked, fetched water. Sounds easy right, but it actually wasn’t. Cleaning the house involved scrubbing the walls and floors, washing clothes was done by hand, no washer and dryer. Cooking involved grinding red hot peppers by hand, using grinding stones, my hands would sting for hours, because I was pretty bad at it. Fetching water, sometimes involved waking up at ‘ole dark thirty’, as in the crack before the crack of dawn, walking for ~ an hour or more each way, sometimes waiting for ~ two or three hours in long lines. Walking back home with a bucket full of water on my head, all before breakfast. All these things were my parents teaching me discipline.

SCW: Wow, that’s really hardcore. My parents pretty much spoiled me rotten ;p. I had to do chores, but it was usually significantly less laborious than what my non-SSD siblings did. Moving along, what made you decide to become a doctor?

I have always liked science, and was the geeky kid who would rather read the encyclopedia, than socialize. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not antisocial! The human body intrigued me, plus I was always fascinated by people who were different; It was always easy for me to make friends with the ‘outsiders’ ‘cos I felt like one.

SCW: What area of medicine do you practice in?
I am an Obstetrician/Gynecologist

SCW:  The life of a medical practitioner can be quite taxing, for our readers, could you describe a typical day?
Dr. MD: My typical work day starts at 8 am. I work 24 hour shifts covering several different areas. Clinic-seeing patients in the office. Labor and delivery- laboring patients, including performing cesarean sections. I also cover Triage (the emergency room), which may include anything from treating pregnant women with colds, to performing emergency surgery on a patient with an ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy in the tube). Consults from inpatients and patient transfers from other hospitals also keep me pretty busy. My job involves being a compassionate, caring physician, being diplomatic, multitasking and fielding problems. It is highly stressful and requires a great deal of concentration. Honestly, I am not always the aforementioned descriptive, especially when achy, or exhausted. Patience, is not my strongest suit, I’m working on it!
I try to stay hydrated when working, eat healthy and take a ten or twenty minute power nap when I can. Sometimes I’m running for 24hrs straight ‘cos so much is going on.

SCW: Amazing! You work for 24 hours non-stop? Unreal! Medical school presents a challenge to a sickle cell warrior. I know many of our compatriots have punked out of applying or going to medical school because of this challenge. How were you able to cope with medical school and sickle cell disease?
Dr. MD: Medical school classes started at 7.30am till about 6pm Monday through Friday. I was in the ER several times and had a few hospitalizations. I figured out I wasn’t cut out to be a Pediatrician ‘cos I would always catch whatever they had. My friends were pretty cool with my SSD, and would help me catch up with school work. The Residents and Attending physicians were also pretty nice and would make sure I was well taken care of.

Residency was different, I was now a real physician working 24-40 hr days. Not all colleagues were sympathetic to working extra hours to cover a sick doc. My friends came through by starting IVs in the call room or in my apartment when it wasn’t too busy, or I was off. The nurses and anesthesiologists would give me pain meds sometimes, because I did not have a regular physician. Probably all illegal but hey they got me through.

SCW: It’s fortunate that your classmates and colleagues were so supportive. I got the same support during nursing school. I think once you explain to people what you are dealing with, they ‘get’ it and help you work around sickle cell. Next question, how do you manage SCD and still maintain a thriving career?
I’ll say it’s very challenging! Between work, port flushes and doctors appointments I feel like I have 2 full time jobs! When I come home from work in the morning, everything hurts. I usually would take Oxycodone + a muscle relaxant+ a heating pad for my legs and rest during the day if I can. I have a Gastroenterologist and a Hematologist/Oncologist that I see every few months- I keep my appointments, drink plenty of water, try to eat as much unprocessed food as I can, take my medicine, well most of the time, and try to get as much rest as I can. The last one is actually very hard, I’m an insomniac and sleep whenever I can, which is during the day when I’m not working. I work two or three 24 hour shifts a week.

Holy moly! 3-24 hour shifts! Now I can’t complain after a 12-hour shift! You are really committed to your career. Thank you for sharing your regimen; I think we all have some level of insomnia. I wonder, has sickle cell limited any area of your life?
Not really. I’m tired a lot of times because of my work schedule and taking narcotics, so I don’t have a lot of time to socialize. I would like to be in a relationship with someone nice, who understands me and is considerate of my lifestyle. I’m hoping he’s out there!

SCW: I know he’s out there…we just have to find him! When you reach obstacles in your life, what helps you overcome it?
Dr. MD: Nine years ago I was diagnosed with cancer. Prayer, my friends, and family helped me through. My  favorite sayings ‘God never gives you more than you can handle’ and ‘When you are going through hell, keep on going’ also give me the extra strength to keep on pushing.

SCW: Amen to that! The first quote is one of my favorite as well! I think it’s so apt to our situation. I am just going to throw this next question in here, to prove to the skeptics that you are a sickle cell warrior just like they are.  Do you have regular pain (more than 2x/wk)? How do you cope with this when you are working?
YES. I am in pain EVERYDAY!!! My pain usually runs from a 3 to a 5 on a 10 pain scale. I do not and will not take narcotics when working, it’s like driving drunk, so I just deal with it, or take Tramadol close to when I’m about to finish my shift, if it is really bad. Rarely if it is really, super bad; I’ll take Toradol and have an IV started.

SCW: I completely understand what you mean. I take Motrin on the job when I’m in pain, and sometimes I am in more pain than my patients! What medications do you take when you are in pain?
Dr. MD: Oxycodone, Toradol, Tramadol

SCW: What is your daily medication regimen?
Folic acid/2 GI meds for ulcers/Hydroxyurea/Cymbalta/Multivitamins

SCW: I see you are taking Hydroyurea. Personally I am not a fan, but I would like to understand your experience with Hydroxyurea; would you recommend it to someone else? Why or why not?
In 2001, I developed Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, 6 months after starting Hydroxyurea (Now, I’m in compete remission). I do not know if the Hydroxyurea precipitated it, however my last hospital admission was in 2007. So I take it, because it works for me.

SCW: Thank you for sharing that. Looking at the 14 year old version of yourself what would you tell her if you could…
I would tell my 14 year old self: life gets better 😉

SCW: Hahaha, so true! I would tell my 14 year old self probably the same thing, and to avoid boys XYZ since they are heartbreakers…lol. Is there anything else you would like to tell sickle cell warriors?
To my fellow sickle cell warriors-stay strong and remember God never gives us more than we can handle!

SCW: Thank you Dr. Y for doing this interview. It was an honor and pleasure to meet you. Wow…isn’t she amazing! I told you she was inspiring! This spotlight series is brought to remind you that you can do anything you set your heart and mind to!

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Sickle Cell Warrior

Sickle Cell Warrior

Tosin is dedicated to perpetuating healthy and positive messages about sickle cell. Although sickle cell is a subject often taboo in the communities this condition is most prevalent, Tosin's message is that sickle cell is not something to be ashamed of and you can live a rich and fulfilling life with sickle cell. Sickle cell warriors are the most amazing people in the world, with a great fortitude for compassion, willpower and strength.

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58 Comments

  1. Nade
    Nade May 31, 04:22

    Hi, i’m glad to have found this site,gives me so much hope to continue doing more to empower myself against all odds from what most people said while i was growing up.

    I’m thankful everyday for the life i have now and the grace to achieve so much more with my life.

  2. JoyousJoy
    JoyousJoy June 12, 01:28

    Thank you Dr Y for the inspiration, I am an architect myself and the physical part of the job can be taxing So am really encouraged to see that at least someone else is handling physical strain at work well and God is seeing her through, God bless…

  3. che wilson
    che wilson June 21, 00:24

                       A CRY BY SICKLE CELL ANAEMIA PATIENTS.      I have the most honour and respect to put these my few words,to your Organisation.              Am a Sickle cell Anaemia patient which have being having this illness for 3 decade nowand hope these my informations and innovation will be helpfull also with my reseach i have carried out about this my illness                          There is this drug called  H.M, I and some others Sickle cell anaemia patient have being consuming this drug for long and i did some research about the drug and my illness and i observed the drug  was effective to us  Sickle cell anaemia.                      Also this drug was in cameroon through a charity organisation ,so later the drug became scaresand very expensive  soon later ,it was sold for 15,500 Frs and each parkets contain 90 capsules,which is to be consumedfor a monthly period, and was to be taken daily from when you are dianogned as a sickler ,that is, at the age of 2 years  ,and from that moment you have to be consuming this drug till when death do you part. know presentlythe drug is unavaliable in the market, ie phramacy,hospital etc.Morever i will help you with some Vital information required for it production of the drug and if posble the package of the drug i consumed ,when the drug was in the market……………  the composition of the drug    ,,,,,,various Miligram and percentage of the drug   the proprietory blend of the drug   the directive of the drug   the drug was in capsule form.       Futhermore i will also suggest to you,as done in  my  research that i also notice certain HERBS and componients here in my country that can also rapidly increase the content of  RED BLOOD CELLs, HAEMOGLOBIN ,ETC an  if  being added to modern medication*H.M* as concerned sickle cell anemia ,i do beleived we are going to come out with the best modified  21 century drug for this illment,because both this medications need to be combine together,hence need team work,ideal sharing, etc          In addition i will wish to voluntee as part of your organisation,so as to share my ideals about the illnessand also to exchange,exploit,some ideals which i wrote down in a BROCHUR< i named it Users guide to sicklecell anaemia patient, i will provide the Brochure to you if and only if you will need it.                               Sir ,i and my fellow brother and sisters in Cameroon while not the world atlarge. really wishyou will help us with this drug production and also reducing the price for us,since we can not do withot this drughence it is not easy for us now because the drug can not be found in any pharmacy in cameroom neither inAfrica nor Europ,since the charity was close due to the death  of the REV father  who was running the charity,we are really in a dispaired condition,some dying.and it is one year today we are unable to lay hands on thisdrug hence disturbing our health and keep on going to the hospital day in and out,given us folio acid  yet still having crises frequently ,whereas with H.M ,NO crises,pains, blood stortage.etc     ALSO NO INTERNATIONAL DAY OF SICKLE CELL DIESESE ,why ,why and why,such day will help us to beaware of our self,illness, also have councilling about our illness  and other young couple to know thier Genetic status before getting marriage           So in a nutshel ,i wish your organisation to produces this drug for us sickler and to sell it for us the sicklerat an affortable price. many sickler are dying in the hands of fake Chines drugs, and we also need councillingsicne most sickler are ignorant of this illment, you really need to do something for us sickle cell patients. Childern from 2 years old to 24 years old are mostly affected,and I notice this illmentIs due to lack of mineral in the body system.                                                                                    Thanks for understanding
      your faithfully
          che wilson

  4. sydia
    sydia September 18, 02:37

    Hi I’m 55 years 9-24 I had not had a crisis in 30 year tell a place we’re I was living had black mold .This dropped my oxygen and he may hema globe 2 a 3.I have managed very well it had been so long that.for got what it felt like.Im still fight to keep my blood levels up above a 6 It’s been a year since this happen. But I’m a warrior. I take herbs I all ways have Chinese herbs, my body love them. Thanks for listening. Cynthia

  5. Mike
    Mike February 07, 15:50

    Doc. you were blessed you had co-workers that understood. My full time job was probation/parole officer, my part-time jobs were EMT and security guard and I was a volunteer fire-fighter. I loved all my jobs because I was helping my community but my supervisor with probation/parole had no understanding and threaten to fire me several times because I was out sick and although not that much only about once every two years. He would have fired me but his supervisor was understanding and help me with my problems when they did show their ugly heads. Sadly when his supervisor retired needless to say when I had trouble I was let go no matter how much I pleaded not to be put on disability but find me something less strenuous but please let me keep my job he said, ” there is nothing for you to do”. That was the worst day of my life and all down hill since that date, my life had no meaning until a couple of months ago a person offered me a part time job for 6 hours a week in the library and I was extremely happy, because it not much but it give me some purpose for living. Every person on this earth must have some purpose for living. I have two degrees one in justice and one in social work, yet no one will hire me. Enough said, I am just glad that more Sickle cell patients are proving that we(sickle cell patients) are not all drug seekers. Please keep up the good work.

  6. montana
    montana March 25, 21:35

    hello, i just want to know if it’s possible for MAN WITH AA + AS in LADY to have a baby that will be AS?

  7. Phynxshadow
    Phynxshadow December 18, 22:22

    I am glad to see that there are survivors above my age 59 and I just was looking to see if it wasn’t just luck or mind set I don’t know if will be the end of me or something else I have never done anything to use it as an excuse my mother didn’t either and I think that is why I have survived this long and I am great full to have lived this long. My symptoms have changed so I have to learn what my new triggers are but I have met very few others and their illness was more severe they have padt on but wrre young at age 38 . Happy to see others have survived longer and welcome any tips god bless

  8. Jane
    Jane January 06, 16:18

    I am a sickle cell warrior, will turn 50 this year & am gratfull to God. Keep smiling all scw’s out there !

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