Meet Amanda: Mom/Grad Student/Social Worker/Warrior

Hello everyone! Meet Ms. Amanda Whiting, a grad student, mom and sickle cell warrior who took  took on the Disability Department of her college, and won her rights to a fair education. Read more about her amazing life’s journey below.

How old where you when you found out you had sickle cell? I was diagnosed with SC at birth, however it wasn’t until 4th grade that I understood I had a disease that my friends didn’t and would never have.

How were you able to cope with school and sickle cell? From elementary school my teachers and nurses were informed of my illness on the first day of school. Anytime I did have problems at school my teachers never questioned me, and I was sent straight to the nurses’ office. My mother, (who was an employee of the School district and worked no more than 5 miles away), would come get me and medicate me or take me to E.R if needed.

During undergrad, most my professors were very understanding especially since I attend a historically black university.  However, there were few instructors that failed me, dropped me from courses, and didn’t allow me to make up work while I was hospitalized. Because of the fact I missed a lot of class and had to repeat courses, therefore it took me more than four years to graduate. It was during my last two years of college I got the disability office on campus FINALLY on board, and even got an attorney in case there were circumstances of discrimination. Luckily I didn’t need the attorney: ). For my post grad school all of my classes are online, so I have no worries of missing lectures.

First Amanda, I have to thank you for paving the way for other students with sickle cell in your school that come after you to be able to get proper education and services. If it was someone else, they would have just given up the fight and dropped out of school, and I praise your tenacity and determination. How did your childhood and your parents influence you in your choice of career? My parents supported the idea of me becoming a hematologist from a young girl, but as I grew up my career path changed a little and my parents were supportive of it. As long as I finished college they were fine.
What do you do? What kind of experience and schooling does one need to get your job? I am a social worker. To become a social worker you must attend a four year accredited university, and pass the licensing exam to practice in your state.

Describe a typical day on your job. I am currently an at home mother/grad student, but I am looking forward to starting a new job in June 2011 with the Juvenile Probation Department. I will be needing alot of prayers! For now my days are spent working on a 501-3c for SC patients in the Houston area.

How do you manage SCD and still maintain a thriving life and career? I stay active and watch what I eat. When I am tried I don’t ignore it— I lay down for a nap or at least lay down and rest my body as well as my mind. I know now when I’m starting to get sick, so I take all precautions and do my best not to over do it. During the warm months I stay hydrated and during the cold months I stay warm and hydrated.

Have you noticed a difference in how your coworkers treat you once they know you have SCD? I’m very private about my life and that includes my disease. I tell those that need to know i.e supervisor and instructors. I have always had support from my counterparts and they are usually pretty understanding and curious.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to join your profession that has sickle cell? GO FOR IT!!! We need more empathetic people in the helping profession.

Has sickle cell limited any areas of your life? When I was younger I could only stay in the pool for 20 minutes at a time so I wouldn’t get sick.  I have missed celebrations, birthdays, and holidays due to hospitalizations. I don’t date as much for fear of the fact my significant other won’t be able to handle my life. I must confess, it gets lonely at times.

You have a son. How was your pregnancy, labor and delivery? My pregnancy was a pain free and problem free one, that is until my 7th month I had pain in my legs, and the doctors admitted me. My hematologist doesn’t transfuse me routinely because I have so many antibodies and start to hemolyze days after the transfusion. However, because I was pregnant they had to. From that transfusion until my due date I had a cycle of pain, blood transfusions, and more pain. My son is the greatest gift God could have ever sent me and I’m looking forward to bearing more children after I’m married! Fortunately, my son have sickle cell disease; but does have the trait. I would feel awful to bring a child into the world that would have to endure as much physical pain as I do.

[stextbox id=”alert” bgcolor=”908ee0″]When you do reach obstacles in your life, what helps you through it? Laughter gets me through a lot. If I can’t control it, then I don’t worry about it. I know that if my God brings me to it, then HE will bring me through it too.[/stextbox]

Do you have regular pain (more than 2x a week)? How do you cope with this when you are working  or in school? I don’t have pain that frequently, but I do have pain. When I do if it’s mild pain, then I take my meds and lay down. If it’s that severe pain (yall know what I’m talking about) I go straight to E.R.

What is your daily medication regimen and what medications do you take when you are in pain? I don’t take anything daily, but for pain I take Norco or Dilaudid depending on the intensity.

How has sickle cell affected your personal life? For example, are you in a relationship, do you have kids, etc. I am not in a relationship, and SC actually has a lot to with that, but that my own discretion I’m working on. My previous relationship/courtship was with a man in the medical field that was very understanding, and it also helped in his career when he had SC patients in the ER. I do have a 2 yr old son and he is the joy of my life.

Looking at the 14 year old version of yourself, what would you tell him or her if you could…? Be careful who you give your heart to young lady!

Is there anything else that you would want to tell other sickle cell warriors? Be your own advocate, and if you feel you are being judged or mistreated by medical professionals, then speak up and report them.

Tosin Ola

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