By Ashli Findley

Life can seem overbearing for patients dealing with sickle cell disease (SCD). Tanisha Hackett was diagnosed with the blood disorder at age 9. She has learned to cope in ways that alleviate much of the discomforts, including staying calm, praying, relying on her support system, and meditating.

“That doctor talked to me and taught me how to meditate,” says Tanisha about her initial diagnosis. He asked her, “What is something that you really enjoy? What do you like?”

She told him she loved the sound of rain, that it calmed her.

“The doctor said whenever I was having a sickle cell crisis, focus on hearing the ocean or the rain on the window pane,” Tanisha says. “From that day up until now, I still do that.”

Tanisha says having the support of her family has played a huge role in her ability to cope with SCD.
Photos by Melissa Donald 

With SCD, red blood cells take on a sickle or crescent shape instead of the healthy donut shape, causing blockages in the blood. It stops the blood from carrying oxygen to different parts of the body while bringing about extreme, indescribable pain in the bone, tissue, and joints. Once that pain gets to a certain level, it can only be treated with narcotics like morphine. The medication, coupled with the hospital’s IV fluids and inhaled oxygen, provide a complete remedy.

Tanisha’s type is hemoglobin SC, the second most severe. Once afraid to be a burden to others, this 45-year-old wife and mother of four now comfortably relies on her family for support.

“My support system is definitely my husband and my children,” Tanisha says, “and just having them here and the fact that I have educated them about the disease.”

They help her get around the house when she can’t on her own. Her husband also helps her make informed medical decisions when conversing with the physicians.

Tanisha has also put more effort into managing her health, which has minimized her trips to the hospital to only about once per year. She takes folic acid and vitamin D daily. She eats vegetables, which provide oxygen. She tries to maintain an exercise schedule. She sees a hematologist one to two times per year to check her blood levels.

Most markedly, Tanisha says it is her faith that has helped her cope. Being in a relationship with Christ, meditating on the promises of the Bible, and praying work best in keeping her calm and alleviating pain during a crisis.

“I truly believe it’s only because of God’s grace that I’ve been able to get through this and still have what I call a pretty normal life.”