Meet William: Father, Husband, Martial Arts Instructor, Warrior

William's Family
William and his daughter

It is encouraging to meet so many people living their lives despite having sickle cell. Allow me to introduce you to William Blake. William is a dynamic, active, and interesting man; a father, husband and sickle cell warrior.  I’m so glad to do this interview with you today!

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share my story. I hope it can help someone who may be going through similar problems.

For starters, how old where you when you found out you had sickle cell and how did your parents influence your present? I was 10 when I found out. My parents always told me to follow my dreams and supported me in every endeavor.

What do you do? I am a School Librarian, Martial Arts Instructor, and Magazine correspondent.

Okay, some warriors find it hard to hold down one job, and here you are with three! Gracious, you must lead such a busy, busy life! What kind of experience and schooling does one need to become a librarian, and a martial arts instructor? You must have an Associate’s Degree and at least a 1st Degree Black Belt.

Thanks for telling me you have a black belt. I’ll do my best to stay on your good side with this interview *smile*. How were you able to cope with  school and sickle cell?
I live in Charles County, Maryland, and we have a program called CHIPs, Chronic Health and Illness Program. This program gives students who have a chronic illness a tutor whenever they miss days from to school to help them catch up on their work. Throughout school I would miss about 100 days out of the 180, so I basically had my tutor there all the time. I missed most days because I always was pushing too hard when well, and then would have to recover from that. But I graduated from High School when I was 16 because I had skipped 11th grade thanks to my tutor. Throughout college 90% of my classes were online so I didn’t have to worry about missing class and it allowed me to receive my Bachelor’s in Asian Studies.

I got my BSN online too! Big ups to the online schools:) You are so fortunate to live in Charles County. I didn’t know such a program existed and wish this existed all over for everyone. I’m sure that many warriors would benefit from CHIPs. Describe a typical day on your job. Well my first job as a librarian is from 8am to 4pm. It is spent checking in and out books, shelving books, helping people find books, etc. Then I head over to my second job from 5:30pm to 8:30pm. I have four classes that I teach martial arts to. The first one is beginners, then Lil Dragons (4 to 6 years old), then Lil Dragons (2-3 years old), and then my intermediate and advanced class. We go through sparring, forms, tumbling, and self-defense.

That is such a busy schedule. You sound like you really enjoy it though. How do you manage SCD and still maintain a thriving career? It has been very hard and unfortunately I’ve had to apply for Disability. But through most of these years I’ve just had to keep supplying my jobs with doctor’s notes and then HR usually backs off. I miss so many more days than the average person but since my support group is so strong it helps me get through day by day. At my current job I get two months of in the summer paid, a week in Nov, two weeks in Dec. and this really helps me out because my body get so much time to rest. But during these past two years SC has been attacking my eyes causing me to have two vitrectomies which is the main reason I have applied for Disability. My eye doctor alone has ordered, “No lifting anything over 30lbs!”

Okay what’s up with all that vacation time? I wish my job let me have that much time off, wowza! It sounds like even with the difficulty, you never let that slow you down. Have you noticed a difference in how your coworkers treat you once they know you have SCD? They usually don’t believe at first, but then they realize that’s why I miss so many work days. Then they become over protective mothers and fathers saying, “Mr. Blake should you be doing that.” But when it’s time to exercise, they change their tune to, “Mr. Blake I don’t like you…haha” but it’s all from love.

LOL, you sound like an exercise whip cracker! If you could give just one piece of advice to someone wanting to join your profession that has sickle cell, what would it be?
Rest on the days that you are off!

So true. Has sickle cell limited any areas of your life? Yes. Whenever I travel it takes me at least two weeks to recover depending on how far I go away. I’ve tried all different ways: car, train, and plane but I still get the same results. With sickle cell affecting my eyes, it has put a limit on how much I can lift. In this aspect, if I push my body too far my eyes begin to bleed and then there is the scar tissue that is left behind which then affects my retina, changing my vision and forcing me to look over the blood just to see.

Thank you for the illumination. I did know that sickle cell could affect the eyes, but I hadn’t realized it was to that extent! Make sure you watch what you lift Mr. B, we don’t want you going blind o!! When you do reach obstacles in your life, what helps you through it? My family is my greatest support. My Mother, Brother, Sister, Wife, and Daughter.

Moving on to the subject of family, how has sickle cell affected your personal life? Well when my Wife got pregnant we found out that she has the SC trait. I had asked her when we were dating, and her parents stated that she had been tested; but it wasn’t until later that we found out she had the trait. Looking back, I would not be able to have or want a relationship with any other woman, because I don’t want to change anything about her or what we have. Well, except maybe her shopping habits…just kidding, I’ll take those too! We were blessed with my little angel; and even though she has sickle cell, we wouldn’t change that for anything because she is so wonderful and a blessing to our lives. Now we have to decide if we want to adopt or put another child through the chance of having the same things that I have to deal with.

Awww, that’s so sweet! You have two beautiful angels in your life! Do you have regular pain (more than 2x a week) and how do cope with this when you are working? Breathing deeply and taking it day by day. I usually get up at around 4 am and try to go for a walk. If I am unable to walk because the pain is too great then I don’t go to work that day.

What medications do you take when you are in pain and what is your daily medication regimen? T3s aka Tylenol with codeine for pain. Men’s daily vitamin and Folic Acid are my other regular meds.

Final question, looking at the 14 year old version of yourself, what would you tell him if you could…? Go and get your eyes checked, visit Korea, and take pictures of everything you do.

Is there anything else that you would want to tell other sickle cell warriors? Don’t consider yourself as doing good for someone who has sickle cell. Just consider yourself as doing good. Don’t let this disease define you no more than the color of your skin. Although you may face a different battle or struggle always do your best (and not the best for someone who has sickle cell). Yes I do have sickle cell but when I went to a tournament I’m wasn’t trying get 1st place out of just the people with a disease I wanted to get 1st place over everybody. When I’m doing a good job at work I’d rather be complimented because the work is good not because you believe it is good for someone considering the fact that they have SC, Cancer, or because they’re Black, or White. Just do your best and hope that it is the best no matter your age, race, religion, weight, gender, height, health or where you’re from. When you put a limit on what you believe you can do; that stops you from doing what you could have done and achieving your fullest and greatest potential.

Wow, amazing advice William! Thank you so much for doing this interview. You are truly an inspiration. Give many kisses to your little warrior child for me! She is lucky to have a dad that has already won that battle she is going to begin. Many blessings!


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