I have a confession to make: when reading this, I originally thought Yomi was a lady because he is so self aware and present. This is rare trait to find in men of this generation. Read on to find out more about Yomi’s amazing life journey thus far, how he took sickle cell lemons and made lemonade, and the zen philosophy of his life.
When did you find out you had sickle cell and how were you able to cope with school and sickle cell? I can’t think of a time that I didn’t know that I had sickle cell. I missed a lot of school. I endured pain through classes and exams; sometimes I would step out to throw up and then come back in to finish my exam. I read at my pace and blocked everything else out. Fortunately, attendance wasn’t a big deal back in Nigeria where I got my college degree, so I did things as best as I could for myself and I thank God that I finally passed with a degree in Philosophy. But school was never my thing, really. I decided that rather than trying to sit through more college/graduate classes, I would find some tangible skills. So I started taking computer programming courses and became Microsoft Certified.
What do you do? What kind of experience and schooling does one need to get your job? I am a Project Manager at a large public sector company. For my position, a college degree is helpful as well as Project Management certification (PMP).
Describe a typical day on your job. I try to get in by 8:30am (my commute is a bear) and spend the day responding to emails, participating in meetings, and developing project requirements and holding people to task.
‘Holding people to task’ sounds like you’re a boss there Yomi! How do you manage SCD and still maintain a thriving career? It’s not easy; especially if you want to have a personal life as well. Sleep is key and I try not to worry or stress too much. I also work at my own pace—I don’t push myself if I can’t. When I feel better, my productivity increase makes up for the times when I don’t do as much as I needed to.
Have you noticed a difference in how your coworkers treat you once they know you have SCD? Unless they really know what sickle cell is, people just wonder why you keep calling out sick. So generally, people haven’t treated me any differently.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to join your profession that has sickle cell? Read up on Project Management online and if you feel like it’s something you would like to do—go for it! You can do the college track or just the certification. The flexibility that the certification route gives you is really good.
Has sickle cell limited any areas of your life? I’m sure it has, but then who isn’t limited by something? For example, I love the military, I even took the exam, but of course I can’t handle the physical requirements. [stextbox id=”custom”]What I have learned is to discover my strengths and focus on things that allow me to display and sharpen those. I think that sickle cell has made me have to be more creative—if I want something I am not going to be able to get it by sheer force and muscle—I have to use my mind and all the resources I have… but I can probably achieve the same things and still enjoy life. [/stextbox]
When you do reach obstacles in your life, what helps you through it? God, the Bible.
Do you have regular pain (more than 2x a week)? How do you cope with this when you are working? Sometimes I do. Advil helps me through the day; then I get home and try to eat well, hydrate and sleep a lot. If the pain gets really bad, I take Dilaudid or Percocet.
What is your daily medication regimen and what medications do you take when you are in pain? Folic acid is the only thing I take daily. Sometimes I also take a sleeping pill because I have difficulty shutting down at night. I’m nocturnal and if I left it to myself I wouldn’t sleep until 2am—which is not recommended for being at the office early the next day.
Night-owls unite! How has sickle cell affected your personal life? For example, are you in a relationship, do you have kids, etc. In my adult life, I had three relationships end because they couldn’t deal with the sickle cell and the possibility of having children that might have sickle cell. I thank God that I did not marry any of those three women.
If you aren’t single and fabulous:), please tell us about your significant other. How have they helped you with sickle cell? How did your relationship evolve taking into account your sickle cell? When did you tell him/her? I met my wife, Lanre, 4 years ago. The truth is that I was quite pessimistic and didn’t think she would stick around either. After three years of dating we got married last August. She has really amazed me. She’s cared for me without blaming me (even when I might have deserved some blame). She really educated herself on sickle cell and she’s been awesome for my health and about maintaining my health. While we take my health into account, we still have a great life together. I recently accompanied her on an international trip where I went jet skiing for the first time. I crossed a forest canopy rope bridge and had amazing food. We’ve driven to a number of US cities now and done the tourist thing… my next goal is horseback riding!
Looking at the 14 year old version of yourself, what would you tell him or her if you could…? You don’t have to prove anything to anyone—I damn near killed myself (several times) trying to prove that I was as tough as all the other boys—it’s not worth it! Use your brains and other talents instead… some girls actually like that better. Realize that everyone has limitations in some way or another; while it may seem that your pride is more important than your life or health—it is not!
Is there anything else that you would want to tell other sickle cell warriors? [stextbox id=”custom”]Don’t pretend that sickle cell doesn’t affect your life, but don’t allow it to determine your whole life either—a million dollars to whoever finds the balance![/stextbox]
Thank you Yomi!! Congratulations on finding the love of your life, and I know that you two will have amazing adventures together.