Struggle of Sickle Cell

Here’s a window into GCAA student Bobbi Sanders’s world, written in Writing Workshop. For her personal narrative essay, Bobbi focused largely on creative writing techniques like imagery and tension:

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I sat in a wooden chair with a deep blood red leather cushing and gold studs around the base. It has two lions on the top that I tend to look at from time to time. I sat there as my mom was in the kitchen talking to my little brother. She told him, “Get out the kitchen and leave me alone.” I asked her, “Can you take me to urgent care?” She told me “Sure, just wait till your step dad get back with the car.” After awhile she made her way upstairs and the pain increased.

I have school in two days. I hope this pain goes away, I remembered thinking to myself.  I  sat my leg on our light brown coffee table. Looking around the room thinking I hope my Sickle Cell don’t act up. After a while the pain was unbearable it felt like someone took a hammer and kept hitting my arch. I knew it was nothing but my Sickle Cell cutting off the oxygen and blood flow in certain parts of my foot.

Sickle Cell: many girls with it looks at it like a baby: needy, annoying, and cry so you have to try and find out why. The crazy thing about it is it starts in one place and evolves, but what do you expect from something that evolved in Africa to keep you safe from illnesses that mosquitoes have? And that’s what it did before I could take my next breath. It evolved to my leg.

After a while tears started streaming down my face and I kept thinking, Stop Lovely, you’re only gonna make it worse. My cry turned into that nasty loud cry, the soul crushing cry, a Viola Davis cry . It got so bad to the point where I had to bite my arm so my mom couldn’t hear. Somehow she did and I knew she did because she turned the music up. I called her, holding my tear and screams of pain back, and told her. “I need to go to Children’s instead of Urgent Care.” She asked, “Are you sure Bobbi? They’re going to keep you.” I exclaimed to her that I couldn’t take the pain and she understood.

Sitting there crying and screaming in my arm, I caused a headache. All I could think was, I told you Lovely and you didn’t listen. Sitting there, it felt like my lungs were closing and the room was getting smaller. Minutes later my step-dad was home. I was trying to calm myself down and clean my face. When my mom yelled “Come on!”  She asked, “Do you need Shaakir to help you down the stairs?” I said, “No!” She should’ve known me being me an independent Aries I was going to say no.

I got up slowly, grabbing on to the lion, then stood there trying to get myself together for a second. I finally limped my way to the door, then down the stairs I went. Limping to the car, I noticed I caught the neighbor’s attention. I prayed no one would say anything to me and they didn’t. They directed all their questions to my mom as I got in the car. Laying in the back seat, I tried to muffle my cry as I asked my mom to turn up Lloyd’s song “Tru.”

Driving there felt like a drive from hell to hellfire (and I rode in a car from St.louis to Portland with five people before this.) The bumps in the road felt like drops in a rollercoaster. I laid there thinking about everything I felt like I did wrong in my life. It’s crazy that this little blood thing made all this pain. We finally made it to the hospital and I waited until they brought me a wheelchair.

We did our usual dance: name, first last, or last first, then they take my temp, heart rate, and weight. They immediately put me in a room and tried to get my IV in. I had a blown vein and others that were not working — then finally they got it. I sat there trying to ignore the pain with questions and HIV test. They gave me some medicine with a big unnecessary name that made my headache feel like I got shot in the head execution style. I told them I would need oxygen and they put me on right away. I was happy they listened so well this time.

I layed there for a while and watched TV as I cracked jokes with every nurse and my mom. Sometime hospital visits blend together and sometimes it feels like I’ve been there for a day or even years. After about 20 minutes, they had me go get a chest X-Ray — still haven’t found out fully what that’s for, but I guess it helps.Then maybe a good ten minutes after I got back to my room from the X-ray, they took me to a real room. I saw familiar nurses in there and we talked as they hooked my pump cad up. A pump cad is a manual machine that gives you medicine by pushing a button — that only you can push — that’s how doped up it leaves you.

The room smelled like death, moth balls, illegal substances, and depression. I guess I knew what to expect so the depression smell came naturally. I knew in a matter of 24 hours that I would be in a drug high. They call me ignorant to medicine so sometimes I need more and sometimes I need less meds. I knew what to expect two to four hours later: I would have the same nurse in my room, then around six or seven as the cafeteria was closing, I would get a night nurse. It was clockwork — some nights if I woke up at twelve, I stayed up because my nurse would be there, with meds at three. Then a lady would be by to take my blood around four. She would stick my finger and scrape it to get blood. It hurt, but pain is pleasure when you have Sickle Cell, or maybe that’s just me.

Then later on, early but late in the day, when I was sleeping like a baby having a great dream, they did a round. A round is when a group of doctors comes around and watches me sleep for about a good three to four minutes and find it funny when I wake up confused and creeped out. Maybe I’m over exaggerating, like a little kid when they want to get you in trouble, but that’s just me. But imagine me: an eighteen-year-old, five six black girl with curly blond hair laying in a white bed with cords strapped all on her. She opens her eyes to see eight evenly placed, sometimes unevenly placed, male and female doctors smiling and giggling, looking at her.

They asked simple questions like “What happened, What causes you to be here? Was it the acute chest pain or the headache? How do you feel?” Then they gave me information that I kind of know myself, but I ignored because of the pain. They also asked me my pain score and told me what it was the day before and what it was before they came in. They kind of reminded me of the Hindu journey to reach Moksha, so detached from the patient they don’t know what you as a person need.They look like they fell as one and say, “We do not accept no as the answer.” And when you ask the number to an equation they say, “The limit does not exist.”

Once it got awkward, I smiled and they slowly left the room. Each day it’s the same process — new people, and me giving the same answers to their questions. My monitor was acting up, so I told each nurse that came in that my tech Doug “messed it up.“ We laughed and somehow each time Doug would walk in. They all said the same thing: ”Yeah, that’s something Doug would do. He’s always messing up things.” Doug was a Caucasian white male standing at about 6’6, built like the Rock. He was a sweet man with funny jokes. I knew I could always count on him for a laugh.

Release day: the happiest, saddest day. You make friends but you’re sick of being depressed. You make sure you have everything you brought with you. They refill your medicine. Then you sign the release papers and you leave hoping you don’t come back for months. More like years, but hey, sickle cell needs more attention as you get older.

I have Sickle Cell SS, the worst one of all. When I think of it I see a three-year-old Bobbi Jo’esha Sanders staring back at me with a smile and big eyes. She’s standing in a pink room with red flames around her, that she caused with her mind. She’s very persuasive and everything about her compels you to come in closer — then she’s got you. The oxygen in the room drops and your blood clots in every vein. All the veins in her body start turning black, like Bonnie in Vampire Diaries when she was using expression and almost killed Elena. She does an evil Maleficent laugh then looks at you like Chucky.

Once shes made you feel the pain of all her ancestors, she stops and holds her hand out for you. “I’m sorry, I just needed to know you could take the pain. God won’t give you more than you can handle, right?” she says with an evil smile on her face. “You’re Lovely, right?” she asks with a confused look on her face, making sure she gave the right person the pain. Me, I am standing there, tears running down my face, catching my breath feeling the blood flowing back through my veins. Like when you drink cold water and it hits every organ going down. Nodding like a bobble head in a moving car.

She tells me, “Hey lighten up — it was just a little pain,” like she didn’t just deprive me of oxygen and blood flow. Eventually I relax from a joke she cracks: “What do you call evolutionized diseases in Africa?” To play along, I say “sickle cell,” and she laughs hard. I Iook at her like, Are these really the corny jokes I crack when I’m doped up on medicine? She answers my facial expression with a glare and a smirk.

I never really knew my life without Sickle Cell and it never knew its life without a human body, right? It’s like thinking about a Chucky film: story, kill, story, kill kill, joke, nasty scene that’s PG-13, then kill everyone but the kid. Then a story to hold you until the next one, right? It’s a love/hate relationship: Imagine watching Scandal: at the end you want Olivia to stand in the sun with Jake, but you also want her to choose Vermont with Fitz. You can never truly hate the reflection of yourself in the Sickle Cell because you are the Sickle Cell, right?

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