Written by Sickle Cell Warrior on 09 February 2012
This week’s warrior is Teara, is a sweet, gracious young lady. She’s a mom, student and working woman. Through all her struggles with the challenges of sickle cell, she is able to count her blessings with a smile on her face.
First things first Teara, how old where you when you found out you had sickle cell?
I’ve known from birth and I had my first crises when I was two years old. I didn’t really understand what was going on until I was about 7 or 8. The hardest part when I was a child was the seizures, having pneumonia six times, and of course the pain. The best part believe it or not was the hospital. I went to St. Louis Children’s Hospital and was treated by Dr. Dabaun and his team, they were amazing.
How were you able to cope with school and sickle cell?
It was hard keeping up with the work because I was absent a lot, so I had to study twice as hard as other students just to keep up. My school was always so supportive and understanding of my situation.
It seems like you were able to manage school effectively even with those challenges. How did your childhood and your parents influence you in your choice of career?
Having sickle cell anemia growing up has influenced me tremendously. My mom always said I should educate more people about sickle cell. There are so many people that do not have any idea of what sickle cell is or how it affects our community. Once I’m finished with college I’m going to start a non-profit sickle cell organization.
Good luck with the non-profit. If we can connect in any way, definitely keep us in the loop. So you are still on college, but what else do you do in your spare time? What kind of experience and schooling does one need to get your job?
I haven’t finished college yet so I haven’t started my career. I’m getting my bachelor’s degree in sociology and psychology. I plan on getting my masters as well. I am now a receptionist at a beauty salon.
How do you manage SCD and still maintain a thriving career?
Well I haven’t gotten into my career yet but my plan is to take care of myself and not push myself past my limits. I have to give myself plenty of time and rest in between my daily tasks. I often have to take small breaks throughout my day and drink lots of water.
Have you noticed a difference in how your coworkers treat you once they know you have SCD?
That’s a funny question. They always start to treat me like I’m disabled and like I can’t do anything for myself. They usually start to ask me every five minutes “Are you ok”, “how do you feel now”, “do you need to sit down”. Sometimes it irritates me because I don’t like for people to feel sorry for me I feel like I can do everything everyone else does. I never put myself in the category of being disabled.
It sounds like you have a very understanding work environment. That’s good! Has sickle cell limited any areas of your life?
It’s sad to say but yes it has even though I’ve tried hard not to let it. I have avascular narcosis and that caused a lot of problems. It stopped me from modeling and participating in other activities. When I was in high school I was on drill team and the pompons team. After almost every performance I did I would always end my night in the emergency room. Now that I’m older I’ve learned to know my limits and not push myself past them.
AVN is the worst:( Sorry about that. When you do reach obstacles in your life, what helps you through it?
One thing my mom always told me was “God will never put more on you than you can bare” and that saying always stuck with me over the years. I have a great support system my family is amazing and I probably couldn’t make it without them. Another thing that helped me was going to the sickle cell meetings. They helped me realize that I wasn’t the only one going through the struggles of having sickle cell.
Do you have regular pain (more than 2x a week)? How do you cope with this when you are working?
I do have pain more than twice a week; it’s more like 4 sometimes 5 times a week. I’ve lived with the pain for so long that it becomes a part of me. I usually have to take a small dose of oxycodone just to get through the day and even though it doesn’t completely stop the pain it does slow it down until I get home and can take my pain medication and rest.
What is your daily medication regimen and what medications do you take when you are in pain?
I get blood transfusions to keep my blood levels elevated. I take folic acid, vitamin B-12, vitamin D, and hydroxyurea daily. I also take oxycodone, morphine, and dilaudid to keep my pain controlled and ibuprofen or Tylenol #3 if needed in between. It may sound like a lot to most people but for me these medications are needed just to keep my day going smoothly. It also helps that I have a portacath because I don’t have to get stuck twenty times just to get an IV.
Sounds like what most of our medication regimen is like. How has sickle cell affected your personal life? For example, are you in a relationship, do you have kids, etc.
Actually it hasn’t. I have a five year old son name Tristan. He is what keeps me going and he takes good care of mommy when I’m not feeling well. I am also in a relationship.
Tristan sounds so great.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?
I’m in a relationship with a wonderful man. He has been a vital part in my life and helping me managed my sickle cell. He helps me keep my mind focused on life and not concentrating on the sickle pain all the time. Having sickle cell has not really affected our relationship much. I’ve known him for quite a while before we started dating so this is something that he knew prior to us starting a relationship.
Wow, that is great. He sounds like your best friend. Please describe in as much detail as possible, how your pregnancy, labor and delivery was. Does Tristan have sickle cell disease?
My pregnancy was ok until I reached the 7th month. I then started having complications. I had a bladder infection. I was in so much pain while in labor, that the epidural was not working so I had to have a spinal tap. Because of the complications I had to have a cesarean. I was in the hospital for about one month.
Looking at the 14 year old version of yourself, what would you tell him or her if you could…?
Never let anything stop you because you are no different than anyone else.
Is there anything else that you would want to tell other sickle cell warriors?
Never stop trying to do whatever it is that you are destined to do and never feel sorry for yourself.
It was very nice to *meet* you Teara. Thank you so much for doing this interview!!!