As I write this, my son Braden is battling a virus that has now begun to affect his lungs. He is on antibiotics, breathing treatments, and has an appointment with his pulmonologist. We caught it early. This is our life…
In March of 2007, we welcomed a beautiful baby boy into this world. In the second month of his life, I received a call from his pediatrician’s office and when I heard the words, “Braden has sickle cell disease”, I froze. I didn’t know my husband had the sickle cell trait and I didn’t know that I carried an abnormal hemoglobin C gene. We had a 25% chance of having a child with sickle cell disease. A one in four chance. My sweet son was that one and it was devastating. After the shock and confirmation, we went into learning mode and immediately began treatment for his disease.
Sickle cell disease impacts other ethnicities besides African-Americans but in the US, the majority of those who have sickle cell disease are African-Americans. The disease is an inherited blood disorder which causes red blood cells to change from a normal round, soft blood cell to a sticky, hard, sickled shaped blood cell under certain stressors. These abnormal blood cells can stick together and block blood flow and oxygen causing pain and other complications.
All of his hospital stays were scary, but this one took my breath away.
When Braden was younger, I agonized with every sickness. I felt so guilty and ashamed because I felt that we had given the worst of ourselves to our son.
The disease led to numerous hospitalizations, including a couple stays at the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). One stay that stands out the most was in 2015. After a fun night out at a collegiate baseball game, Braden became ill. We took him to the emergency room with a fever and chest pain. Within 48 hours of that visit, Braden was rushed to the PICU. Braden had pneumonia and was later diagnosed with Acute Chest Syndrome, the leading cause of death in those with sickle cell disease. All of his hospital stays were scary, but this one took my breath away.
Braden needed help breathing and a blood transfusion to help him survive this illness. I vividly remember watching the blood enter my son’s body as he received his transfusion. I remember feeling nauseous while I prayed that he recovered. I also realized at that moment how important blood donations are. I wondered whose blood was helping my son. I felt guilty about not being a consistent blood donor myself. I knew from that moment on, I had to tell Braden’s story. I had to make sure that people knew the importance of donating blood. A blood donation was saving my son’s life—it was giving him a chance to keep living. It was giving his body an opportunity to recover.
If it hadn’t been for that blood transfusion, I’m not sure where we would be today.
Because of my son and his journey with sickle cell disease, today I am a stronger advocate, a better mom and a stronger person. Braden endures so much but he rarely complains. He lives life and enjoys sports and music. My husband and I try our best to help him to live as normal life as possible with some limits. We do our part by donating blood with the American Red Cross and spreading awareness of sickle cell through our organization by supporting sickle cell warriors, sharing our story and educating our community.
I know firsthand the impact one person can have on someone’s life—I witnessed it when my son received a blood transfusion. That’s why I am asking for all of us to come together to help people affected by sickle cell disease.
About the author:
Brenda Green, is a wife and mother to two daughters and a son. Brenda’s son, Braden, has sickle cell disease. She is dedicated to promoting the importance of blood donation and spreading awareness of sickle cell disease within the African-American community. Brenda is also the Founder and CEO of The B Strong Group, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which she founded in honor of Braden. Along with her husband and the The B Strong Group, she is working with the American Red Cross to emphasize the importance blood donation.