Hello everyone. This Spotlight interview is going to be gritty, real and honest. Being a warrior is not limited to the battles won but is also about being able to talk about your scars and the daily struggles that we go through. And in this interview, Theresa Robinson is open, candid and beautiful. She inspires me ~ and I know she will inspire you too.
Hello my name is Theresa Robinson, a twenty eight year old woman diagnosed with Sickle cell Anemia from the time I was born in North Miami General Hospital in Miami, Florida. My parents found out I had Sickle Cell Anemia at birth. On top of SCD, I have asthma which makes me more susceptible to developing both pneumonia and bronchitis.
What aspirations did you have when you were a kid, and how did your parents influence your career choice?
My parents were very influential throughout my childhood years on my choice of career because they always wanted the best for me. They advocated my desires of wanting to become a Pediatrician or an RN. Coping with school and my sickle cell was very difficult. I was always getting sick to the point when in both sixth and tenth grade I had to get home schooled for the rest of both school years, due to getting an infection from having a very low immune system. But I eventually graduated from high school and went on through to college. I completed some college courses to earn my Associate of Arts degree, and also completed my certification in the Police Academy in May of 2003. Prior to becoming a Law Enforcement Officer I worked at several different jobs to increase my occupational skill set while I was in school.
Wow, you were a cop? Hardcore! How were you able to deal with being a cop and deal with sickle cell?
I will admit it was difficult. I would find myself in pain basically everyday; mostly with joint pains in my body. My profession was a very stressful job, I was going through major headaches, weakness in my body, fatigue and sickle cell pain.
That is the first thing I thought of when you said you were a cop. I mean, it’s hard for any warrior dealing with pains and fatigue, and I know that being in law enforcement, you pretty much have to be on your A-game all the time. So what happened?
Well, sickle cell did affect my job performance. I was constantly calling out sick because of pain, or dealing with fatigue. Even with the other jobs that I had prior to law enforcement; I noticed a lot of discrimination during and after the hiring process. I always was upfront about my health issues to my future employers, and some flat out refused to hire me even though I was qualified. What stopped me from working as that I had a massive hemorrhagic stroke that affected my brain in 2005. This effectively stopped me from working, and presently, I’m unemployed and still disabled, trying to recuperate from that stroke.
I’m so sorry to hear about your stroke. How have you been able to manage with your sickle cell since then?
Thankfully I have my mom to support me. She gives me all the help and determination I need to keep me up-to-date on my doctor’s appointments, medications and blood transfusions that I get every three weeks that prevent me from going into a crisis every month. Now that I have suffered from a second massive stroke, I’m currently unemployed and physically disabled. It seems like my sickle cell has gotten worse to the point where my body is dealing with the pain basically everyday. My body is now getting to the point that its too weak to withstand any more pain. I find myself ending up in the ER or getting admitted in the hospital for a crisis on a regular basis. I usually get treated for the crisis with IV fluids, pain medication, and mostly blood transfusions to help reduce the flare ups in the crisis to bring my H/H up to the normal levels.
It sounds like you have truly had a difficult time of it. And on top of all that you had a second massive stroke! 🙁 What medications do you take for your sickle cell?
For the pain I take Oxycodone, Morphine, & Ibuprofen. These give me side effects of nausea/itching so I have to take Benadryl and Phenergen. For pain management in the hospital, I usually get IV Dilaudid while in crises.
However at home, my daily medication regimen is taking Hydroxyurea, Folic acid, Gabapentin, Kepprra, Prilosec OTC, Singular, the Albuterol inhaler, and I sleep with 2 liters of Oxygen at night to also treat my Asthma to help with keeping my saturation level up when sleeping.
What advice would you give to someone aspiring to join a profession with sickle cell?
For other people with sickle cell, I would have to say, “Make sure you concentrate more on your schoolwork. Choose a career that is not too stressful or strenuous for you. Do your research on the profession and make sure it is ideal for your health that your body can tolerate the job requirements without you overexerting yourself.”
Has sickle cell limited areas of your life?
Sickle cell affects people differently. For me, I would say that sickle cell has limited me in many areas of life. SCD has limited my physical ability to participate in activities or hobbies in life because my body is not as strong, fast, or athletic as other people. In addition, my asthma further limits my physical capabilities. Since I had the stroke, I can’t live independently on my own or have the children that I’ve always wanted to have. I live with my mom and she helps me to do most things. I can no longer drive or have much of a social life because I’m mostly indoors and I’m often too tired from the pain meds to even want to go out to meet new people or hang out with my friends. I’ve lost my independence, and I’m depending on others to do things for me and take me places. SC has affected my ability to date, be social and have a vibrant life.
So where do you get your inner strength from when you reach an obstacle in life?
Because things can be difficult, it takes a lot of determination, and prayers for me to go for the goal that I want to achieve. I also have my mom and my family’s support and motivation.
Looking at a 14 year old version of yourself, what would you tell her if you could?
I would say, “Focus on your school work and become an Honors student. Get more involved in the school activities, enjoy your teenage years, hang out more with your classmates and friends. Focus on trying to build up your immune system so that you won’t have to be home schooled throughout your high school years.”
I’m sure many teens will heed this advice. It is sound. Is there anything else that you want to share with other sickle cell warriors?
My advice is that we go through many struggles, trials and tribulations in life dealing with our health. The main thing you should do is to remember God is very good and things happen for a reason, so it is best not to sulk or hate yourself or your life, when you can be more appreciative and thankful that you’re still alive and have made it through the rough times in life. Try to focus on making a difference in life to make and help others by educating them on the SCD looking for a cure. Try your hardest to turn the negative things we go through in life into a positive aspect. Life is too short to take it for granted.
Smile God loves you and so do I 🙂
Wow Theresa, inspiring words indeed. Thank you so much for doing this interview. There are many sickle cell warriors that have had significant trials in their lives and health, and you are a living testimony, that you can get knocked down but still be an Overcomer. I wish you well in all your future endeavors.
Thank you for your time, and God bless.