Our Warrior in the Spotlight this week is Shakir C. He had a stroke when he was 3 years old, but this just forged him into a stronger person. Read more about his journey below.
Let us begin, as we always do from your diagnosis. How old where you when you found out you had sickle cell? My parents were told at birth, but when I was three and a half I had a stroke which resulted in starting regular transfusion therapy to treat my illness. In addition to regular blood transfusions, I also got desferal to help prevent iron overload.
How were you able to cope with school and sickle cell? Often times I would go to school limping and bruised as my medicine (Desferal) had to be administered through subcutaneous injection, running on a 12 hour pump, every night. Teachers often would ask my parents about the bruising but my mother and father were able to explain to them about my illness. Besides that, I was fortunate enough to be able to go through school having many friends, my own style…and of course, the teachers liked me.
How did your childhood and your parents influence you in your choice of career? I chose my field in 2001 after graduating from high school. My mother and I filled out college applications together one afternoon. My mom asked me what I would like to do with my career, and I responded, “Something having to do with technology and making lots of money.” *smile* So we thought the IT field was a rising and ever growing field to get into.
Wonderful technology age. You picked a great field. So what do you do Shakir? I am an Information Technology Specialist II for the NYS Department of Health. In addition to this, in my spare time I manage an internet-based franchise for my secondary income.
Busy, busy! What kind of experience and schooling does one need to get your job? For my primary day job one would need four years of college and a Bachelor’s degree in information technology or a related computer field. My second job, which is becoming an entrepreneur and having your own business ventures, you need to be a self-starter, motivated and goal oriented.
Describe a typical day on your job. I get up at 6:30am, take my multivitamin along with some OPC-3, then I head to the gym for a 45 minute workout. I usually get done with working out at 8 am, take a shower and then get ready for my primary job at the Department of Health. I get to work at 9am, read a bunch of emails, review our daily reports, assess whatever may be wrong with the system for that day, take my half-hour lunch and after I return I repeat what I did in the morning. After work is when my 2nd career kicks in and I usually go to business meetings either with clients or other businesses. I’m trying to expand my franchise locally and in the future nationally, so I have to keep pushing.
How do you manage SCD and still maintain a thriving career? I get exchange transfusions every 3 weeks, so on those days I usually take off work in the morning and start my work day around 1 pm. When I walk through the door at 1, you would not know from looking at me that I had spent the morning getting stuck (usually 1-4 times) for my exchange transfusion. Everyone has their own problems, and I just keep it to myself and keep pushing. I don’t complain…I just am grateful and thank God I’m able to do this. I’m fortunate to have a supportive family, fiancée, and friends.
Have you noticed a difference in how your coworkers treat you once they know you have SCD? Not really. If anything they look at me as a very brave and strong young man trying to live a normal life.
Rock on Shakir! What advice would you give to someone wanting to join your profession that has sickle cell? I’d say go for it! There’s nothing stopping you from doing whatever you want to do. You can be a state worker lol, or an entrepreneur too!
When you do reach obstacles in your life, what helps you through it? In 2008 I had a very tough year, having pain episodes almost every two weeks, multiple hospitalizations where I was put on various drugs including morphine. Thank God I didn’t I have my job yet and also thank God for my family. They REALLY helped me and were there for me (as always).
Do you have regular pain (more than 2x a week)? Thankfully no. I think this is due to the exchange blood transfusions.
So how do you cope with pain when you are working? Tylenol helps a little but not much. I try not to have to take pain medicine so I’m not in la la land sitting at my desk. My fiance and family has been a strong source of support for me. And luckily, for the most part I haven’t had too many pain episodes while I’ve been working, thank God!
What is your daily medication regimen and what medications do you take when you are in pain? To counteract the iron overload from frequent blood transfusions, I take 3 500mg tablets of Exjade daily. I also take supplements like my Isontonix multivitamin and Isotonix OPC-3 (which I highly recommend everyone with SCD to take, I can direct them to where to purchase it).
How has sickle cell affected your personal life? I strongly believe that sickle cell has made me a more wiser, mature, independent, strong man. Oh, and it definitely helped me be so patient. I am recently engaged to a beautiful woman (she is in the picture), but we do not have kids yet, however there are kids planned for the future.
You two are such a cute couple! Looking at the 14 year old version of yourself, what would you tell him if you could…? I would say, take school more serious and stop worrying about girls. Girls will come! *laugh*
Is there anything else that you would want to tell other sickle cell warriors? Take care yourself, managing your illness is key. Also, monitor your iron (this is very important). And put God first, he will take care of the rest. Love and cherish you family. Cherish everyday, and remember, everyday without pain is a good day. That’s what I tell myself.
Thank you Shakir for doing this interview. I’m sure you have inspired many to actively pursue their dreams. I wish you every happiness in the future, and blessings in your marriage. I know that your business ventures will continue to grow and do well, good luck with everything!