It’s World Sickle Cell Day, and we’re taking a look at the chronic pain and regular hospitalizations that are the reality for many suffering from sickle cell disease.
Nikki Peterson, like approximately 100,000 other Americans, was born with sickle cell anemia. The 43-year-old lives in Upper Marlboro, Md., and ends up in the hospital about four times during what she calls a good year.
Once a month, she undergoes a grueling process called hemapheresis. All of the blood is removed from her body, the platelets and plasma are separated out and returned to her, and then Peterson is given 8 to 12 units of packed red blood cells. This helps to mitigate the pain she lives with every day.
“I don’t know what it means to be without pain. I have nothing to compare it to,” Peterson tells The Root from her bed at Doctors Community Hospital in Greenbelt, Md. “I have what I call my normal pain, and my pain where I need to be in the hospital. They always ask what your pain scale is from 1 to 10. I function on a normal person’s 7 to 8. It’s like my 2.”