Back to School in the Sickle Cell Realm

Let me take you to the life of a sixth-grader who is engulfed by the devil; everyone was in the gym class playing soccer.   As I stood at the goal, I had no intentions to win and participated just for the sake of performance to put up a good show.

The air from the green fields brushed against the blades of grass, and the green leaf volatiles invaded my nostrils, carrying a sweet aroma. In the fresh air, my lungs expanded as if on an automatic refill giving a sensation of serenity as I inhale and exhale.

Why did I decide to stay at the goal?  Because it required less running; though I have no ambition to win, my participation was a mere performance. I’m different from other kids for getting worked out quickly, being sensitive and slow, and not keeping up with my peers.

It seemed as if I was ages behind, I am the shortest among my peers and have buck teeth stained with tetracycline, a thin frame with bifocals on my eyes, I’m a child of age 11 years. 

My illness was invisible breaching the outer layer of my shell, causing me to run like a turtle.

“Your parents come from the Caribbean; you should be gifted at this sport,” the gym coach says.

I believe he’s right, and I abide by his ignorance. Who was I to believe there was something wrong with me? I looked normal.

My peers forced me to be normal, giving an aura that every sickle cell was a fluke; if I could stand, then certainly, I could run. They didn’t know what was lurking beneath my ski

Now, let’s get back to the soccer game where my sickle cell started kicking in and embarrassing me. The ball came towards me; I was ready to stop it.

A player was coming at it. I shifted between his legs and so, I ran kicking it.

I could feel my lungs depleted, and with every breath, it felt as if the oxygen was scraping my lungs; however, I still wouldn’t want to admit my sickness and blamed it on allergy season, when suddenly I stopped, I was intercepted by the other team, and they took the ball right from under me.

I must have lasted 10 seconds with the ball, but I felt like I was running for a decade. The running and vigorous physical activity had evoked the sickle cells inside my body. I could feel my blood clotting in vessels, ready to emerge a sickle cell crisis. I could feel the portal of the sickle cell realms opening up ready to absorb me. 

Breathing now felt like swallowing heavy chunks of dirt, thick clay filling my mouth, choking in my throat, enveloping my melanin, making a mold of death.

I stuttered with my breath and tried inhaling and exhaling slowly. I acted as if all that was happening is unknown to me to portray that I was no different, just like the other kids.

I prayed to God and asked him to hide my limp as the sickle cells clot in my back. Although my team had won, there was no celebration; oxygen isn’t allowed in the VIP room in the sickle cell realms.

After the game, things started getting worse, starting with the knock of pain in my body, building momentum slowly and gradually; I hid the pain as long as possible and made it to my desk. I held back tears, but I was thrown into the devil’s abyss.

With my arms around my head on the desk, I tried to create my nucleus to shelter the sound of my crisis.  I wanted my tears to make me invisible, so I turned my head down on the desk to stay inside my cocoon until things got better. However, things didn’t get better.

Instead, the pain amplified my lack of breath.  I quietly sobbed and whimpered as the rest of the class spoke about the game. There I was, with the grim rippers’ hook, lodged in my back.

 The pain started to pound. But I held it in; I was determined to be normal. I was determined to hide my sickle cells that now emerged in plain sight.

It was time to collect homework when Q came to my desk; I didn’t respond.  He looked at my neighbor; they shrugged their shoulders. Q slowly approached and asked what’s wrong; I sobbed and whimpered until I blurted out,  “my back is hurting.” 

“Ok, I will get the teacher.” He said.

Mr. T  arrived and whispered in my ear, “Hey, are you ok.” 

“I once again blurted out, “my back.” 

I was taken out of class and to the school nurse. My eyes were closed but I could feel every eye piercing my aura. I was yelping with the disaster inside my body and said, “my back is hurting.” 

The nurse didn’t know what to do, so they called my mother, and she said,” I have sickle cell and experience pain.”

I was given a cold pack for my back; it wasn’t effective, but it was all she had, I took Tylenol, and I pushed myself to finish the day. And only had two periods left to finish.

Despite not having normal red blood cells, sickle cell warriors carry extreme resilience. Even if we are losing, we know how to push through to win.  

One of the stigmas of having sickle cell is that they are lazy.  When someone has sickle cell, their body is overworked because their bone marrow constantly pushes out red blood cells; this is why it may feel hard to do strenuous activities.

One thing about living with sickle cell is keeping up; the disease is so unpredictable for any generation: babies, children, teenagers, and adults.  

Going back to school is a challenging time for our warriors, but that’s why we celebrate sickle cell awareness month. To remind our teachers and friends, and family why it’s important.   

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