Interview with a Medical Doctor with Sickle Cell Disease

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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!

28 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience with me. I am 17 my dream is to become a doctor one day, and i always had doubts but you have inspired me and now i know nothing is beyond my reach its not goin to be easy but i'll make it through just lik you did. Thanks alot!!!

  2. God is good. I needed to read that to give me that push!! I am a mother with scd and its a job in tself to take care of her but I'm sure God will work out me getting back in school being a great mother and wife one day a career woman too! I praise God everyday because in june it'll make a year I've been hospitalization free because of my faith in the lord!

  3. I'm a nurse. I work in the ER. Just wanted let you know that your blog is amazing. I've learned so much just from reading the home page.

  4. i have been living with SCD for the past 25 year,i am a university undergraduate and over the years i have been learning new things about the disorder, one just need to learn more about him or herself to prevent crisis. you really tried because becoming a medical doctor is not an easy thing. my dream was to become a medical doctor but i ended up studing Economics due to SCD

  5. hi guys i am so happy reading this comment,i fell uplifted.
    i useto think i was alone with my little brother experiencing this heal on earth but now i see that we are many fighting SD.
    i pray to God to bless all warriors and provide finances whenever thy are in needs. please be posting for us the lastest medicine, and especially if all we can do fund raising to support African children who cant afford the expensive treatment, or school fees and shelter.
    blessing

  6. Thanks Dr.. i am 13 and i have sickle cell disease, i am very inspired by all you said and i know i will walk in your foot steps. I am from Nigeria also and i want to be a doctor also. thanks for your words of advice

  7. I have sickle cell anemia and have been happily married for 10 years. If you have sickle cell then you can get married if the person you are dating loves God first and in turn will reflect God’s love toward you. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

  8. Hi, Dr Y., it’s lovely reading this. I, too,am a doctor in Nigeria. I’m 29 and almost through with my internship. I can relate with your story, and equally admire you. I’m at a point where i need to take important decisions regarding my career. And you are inspiring. i love you.

  9. Wow, it’s really amazing. I am 23 years now and also a SCD patient, i am a graduate with a degree in chemistry. I am preparing for my master degree now but am having a dought that i should not start because of my health condition, thanks to your interview with dr. Y i now have full confidence that i can start my masters degree.

  10. WOW! I AM SO GLAD TO HAVE STUMBLED UPON THIS SITE. I WILL BE A 32 YR OLD WITH SICKLE CELL ANEMIA.I CANT BELIEVE THAT THERE ARE SO MANY SCD PATIENTS DOING SO WELL.I HOPE U GUYS DONT MIND BUT A SISTA REALLY NEEDS TO VENT CAUSE ONLY YOU GUYS REALLY UNDERSTAND. I AM SEVERLY DEPRESSED I DONT WANT TO SAY DUE TO THIS ILLNESS BUT DUE TONTHINGS SURROUNDING IT. I REMEMBER AS A CHILD, SOMETIMES MY FAMILY WOULD NOT TAKE ME TO THE HOSPITAL WHEN I GOT SICK AND I SAW THAT AS BEING MEAN BUT NOW I UNDERSTAND.I GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL BUT DIDNT GO FURTHER.MOST OF MY LIFE IVE DEALT WITH SELF-PITY DUE TO THIS ILLLNESS AND I LET THAT CONTROL ME. IM CONFUSED ABOUT ALOT OF STUFF THE MAIN THING BEING AM I AN ADDICT OR IS MY BODY DEPENDENT ON THESE POWERFUL DRUGS THAT THEY HAVE GIVEN ME. PEOPLE TELL ME THAT IM AN ADDICT BUT I REFUSE TO BELIEVE THAT. I READ ALL THESE COMMENTS BOUT DRUG SEEKING AND I FELT ALOT BETTER CAUSE IT LET ME KNEW I WASNT ALONE.I HAVE TWO DAUGHTERS,MY OLDEST TURNED TEN TODAY.I DO NOT HAVE CUSTODY OF THEM, THEY ARE WITH THEIR DAD. I FEEL LIKE A VERY BAD MOM FOR NOT HAVING THEM. I LIVE ALONE AND PRETTY MUCH KEEP MYSELF IN THAT MANNER,ALONE.ITS NOT SOMETHING I ENJOY BUT FIND MYSELF ALWAYS DOING.I HAE BEEN ON NON STOP MEDS FOR AT LEAST THE LAST I4 YRS OF MY LIFE. I AM ON METHADONE AND OXYCODONE AND I BEEN ON IT SO LONG THAT I DONT REALLY KNOW IF IT HELPS WITH THE PAIN ANYMORE AND I TAKE IT CAUSE THE METHADONE SAYS TO TAKE EVERYDAY N IF I DONT HAVE IT MY BODY WILL GO THROUGH VERY BAD WITHDRAWALS WHICH I FOUND OUT JUST HALLOWEEN WEEKEND.I AM VERY AFRAID FOR MY LIFE AND FEEL SO ALONE.I KNOW IM NOT ALONEBUT I STILL FEEL THAT WAY.I HAVE BEEN TO A TREATMENT CENTER 4 TIMES CAUSE EVERYONE ELSE HAS TOLD ME I AM ADDICTED AND AN ADDICT AND NO ONE ELSE HAS TOLD ME DIFFERENT. I WENT TO PLEASE OTHERS AND CAUSE IM A MOM TRYNA GET IT RIGHT FOR MY DAUGHTERS BUT ALL ALONG IM IN PAIN. PLEASE DONT LET ME GET ON THE HOSPITALS N DOCTORS.I USED TO BE IN THE ER LIKE 4 OR 5 TIMES A WEEK BUT NOW I DREAD GOING.I HATE THE HOSPITAL AND WILL WAIT TIL IM ALMOST DUE FOR ADMISSION BEFORE I WOULD GO CAUSE I KNOW ALL IM LOOKED AT IS A DRUG SEEKER. NOT A WOMAN WITH A PAINFUL DISEASE N JUST WANT IT TO GO AWAY OR EDITHER DIE.I HAVE SO MUCH I NEED TO AND WANT TO SAY I COULD GO ON N ON FOR DAYS. I AM IN TEARS AS I TYPE THIS CAUSE I HAVE ALOT OF EMOTIONAL BUILT UP INSIDE THAT I DI=ONT KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH.IM NOT CLOSE WITH MY FAMILY DUE TO THE QUOTE ON QUOTE ADDICTION SO I JUST STAY TO MYSELF.LIKE I SAID I COULD GO ON AND ON WITH THIS SO IF SOMEONE WITH SCD CAN RELATE TO THIS OR CAN HELP ME FEEL BETTER ABOUT MYSELF CONCERNING THIS OR JUST WANT TO DROP A LINE TO ME, JUST DO SO BY EMAILING ME AT QUIROB79@YAHOO.COM. I HOPE I HAVENT DISCOURAGED ANYONE BY ANYTHING THAT I HAVE VENTED BUT I NEEDED FOR SOMEONE TO HEAR ME OUT THAT CAN RELATE TO MY STATUS. THANK YOU!

  11. this interview section is wonderful,i would like to be hearing things like this, is really encouraging,expecially this saying”God will never gives you what you cannot handle. i am so happy for you doctor,i would like to hear more of that,it really gives me the courage to move on.

  12. Great article. I’m in my last year of medical school and can completely relate. During some of my more stressful and time consuming clerkships I would come home in pain almost everyday, take a pain pill and fall asleep. It was difficult trying to study after working a long day in the clinic/hospital. But I passed everything and didn’t have to take any time off due to being ill, so I’m blessed for that.

  13. Just want to share this information with you, i came across an article published in 2010 about Niprisan production, it was mentioned in the article that Niprisan production has commenced not in commercial production by NIPRD. i follow up with the article and it was purchased for me at NIPRD office in Abuja. As I reside in Ireland am yet to receive it (Logistic issue), i will contact you when received. Do you have any information on Niprisan?

  14. i am a sickle cell patient with yellow eyes since birth. my eyes is always yellow when i am sick or not and it causes so much embarrassment. please how can i make them white or green .my sister’s own is green so nobody thinks she is a sickler

  15. Hi, I would very much like to have the Dr.’s contact information. Can anyone help me with that? I do outreach at the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, Philadelphia/Delaware Valley Chapter. Hi to the warriors I know and thanks for keeping it real about sickle cell disease.

  16. Hmmm… Dz page as rily inspired me.. Just want to tell y’all dat nafn is impossible for God… I’m a living testimony of a sickle cell patient by birth but now AA… And there are lots of testimonies av bin hearin about SS changin to AA… I just want to urge everyone dat bin a sickler is nt our wish.. But wen we refuse to be affected by it.. We can and we will all achieve our goals…. I’ve bin insulted and make jest of during my high school days… I cried every tym i realised i’m a sickler.. Cos i’m always restricted from doin sum certain tins i really want to do.. But now… I’m in 200level.. In a dance club… I swim alot.. I play football… Just to mention a few.. All glory to God for makin me do everytin i want to do…Shalom… I luv y’all…

  17. hi guys am rily proud n inspired wt al ur stories…am nt a ssd patient but my boyfrnd is nd weneva he starts his crises i feel sick too bcause of d love we share…he defered his semester dis yr cause he got sick nd cnt walk wtout a support so they sed he’s goin to hav a surgery nid ur pryrs plx…nd hav any of u ever exprienc dat? Do u thnk he can walk again?

  18. I just wanted to tell you all that your amazing! I just found this page looking up information for my daughter. She is 3yrs old and has SCD. I am so grateful that God has brought her through. I really feel encouraged reading everyones stories and the love you show for one another. I hope you all know that there is someone out there who cares about you and what your going through! Dont be afraid to reach out even to strangers. I hate seeing people hurting and feeling alone, it breaks my heart. I would love to be a friend to anyone who needs it. I love that this site exists. My daughter is beginning transfusion therapy this friday and Im honestly still scared. I believe fully that God is with her, but the mother in my cant let the fear go. Im trying. You all keep it up! He didnt bring you this far to let you down.

  19. 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.

  20. 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…

  21.                    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

  22. 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.

  23. 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

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