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Anyone who knows me would describe me as an individual who is determined, caring and full of personality. Many people see me as a hardworking college student attending the illustrious, Howard University. I am involved in campus life as a member of student council and other organizations. I am twenty years young and full of life with many goals and aspirations.
From first glance no one would know that I am a Sickle Cell Disease patient that takes daily medication and receives Apheresis blood exchanges every six weeks. My disease causes chronic pain sometimes which even prohibits me from completing usually simple tasks. At my worst it is even difficult to walk and I must use a wheelchair.
In my eleventh grade year of high school my doctors at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta presented a new solution to resolve some of the painful episodes that I suffer from. This solution was monthly Apheresis Blood Exchanges. This meant every four weeks I would arrive on an outpatient basis and trained nurse from the American Red Cross would come to administer the procedure. I was open to the new option so we began during the summer of 2009. I was nervous but the possibility of having little to no pain at all was exciting. My blood was typed and cross matched with donor blood. The machine would filter out my blood in exchange for ten units of O positive red blood cells. The next day my family and I arrived for the process to begin. The American Red Cross nurse was very knowledgeable and friendly which helped me remain calm.
Everything was a success and within a week and a half I felt like a brand new person! My bones no longer ached and I was able to stop taking the heavy pain medication. Once my senior year of high school began I was able to attend school more often. I also was able to run the mile jog in eight minutes with the rest of the gym class….and I wasn’t the last person to finish! It was as if the Apheresis Blood Exchange allowed me to have a normal, functioning body of a teenager. I graduated with my high school class and began preparation to attend college.
The move to Washington, D.C.was exciting but the thought of finding a hospital that would perform the Apheresis Blood Exchanges on an outpatient basis was slightly overwhelming. After much research and many questions I decided on Georgetown University Hospital. I continue to receive the Apheresis Blood Exchanges and the American Red Cross is always there to help!
My hope is that everyone will realize the importance of being a blood donor. Especially anyone who has a rare blood type such as U- or Fy(a-b-). You could help someone like me live a healthier, happier, pain-free life. I am a testimony to the importance of blood donation and the services that the American Red Cross produces. Without both I wouldn’t be able to be a young, happy and successful young lady. I am unstoppable and Sickle Cell Disease is a part of me but it will never define who I am. Just like my friends and family say…I am determined, caring, and full of personality. I am Marquita Gaines!
Written by Marquita Gaines, a student at Howard University and Sickle Cell Disease patient
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