Dear Diary,

When I was pregnant, I prayed for a bay boy. I thought he would be easier to raise than a little girl. I had practiced with my two nephews, and they didn’t require hair bows and pig tails. Besides, my boyfriend at the time already had daughters. I didn’t have any children, so I wanted my child to be special–clearly hormones clouded my thinking, because my daughter is now the most special person I’ve ever met. But when I got my ultrasound, and the technician announced the gender, I sat and stared at the screen. I later learned that God answered my prayers–I just didn’t know it. He also answered a more important one. He blessed us with a happy, healthy child.

This is a miracle, especially since African Americans are more prone to being diagnosed with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD). In fact, one in every 500 Black children are born with the illness. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), SCD contributes to five percent of the deaths of children under five in some African countries. And while an increasing proportion of affected children now survive past fives years of age, many remain at risk of premature death. To raise awareness about the disease, I reached out to my friends at St. Jude. They shared the following story about a brave boy named Donovan.

When Donovan was born, his family learned he suffered from sickle cell disease, an inherited blood disorder that causes red blood cells to become hard and sickle-shaped, instead of soft and round. Children and adults with the disease may experience symptoms that range from severe pain to strokes, pneumonia and organ damage.

Donovan was referred to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where his treatment included penicillin twice daily to combat infection. During these visits, doctors monitored his development and did blood work. “We’re grateful because Donovan’s sickle cell disease is very mild,” said his mother, Shannon. “Sickle cell disease can be incredibly painful, but St. Jude helps keep the pain at bay.”

When Donovan turned 5 years old, he was able to stop taking penicillin. He now visits St. Jude just twice a year. He’s looking forward to starting second grade in the fall, and his favorite things about school are recess, gym, art and music. Donovan likes SpongeBob SquarePants® and playing video games.

“St. Jude continues to hold a huge place in our hearts,” Shannon said. “I truly believe God has His hand over the staff, patients and researchers of this great facility. St. Jude is a place where miracles happen each and every day.”

In honor of World Sickle Cell Day (June 19), St. Jude recognizes patients like Donovan and the treatment they receive from St. Jude. St. Jude freely shares the breakthroughs it makes, and every child saved at St. Jude means doctors and scientists worldwide can use that knowledge to save thousands more children.

While sickle cell disease rarely kills children, mortality rates rise alarmingly in young adults. In response, St. Jude developed a program to help teens transition to adult care. The program focuses on educating teens about how to take better care of themselves and to gradually shift medical responsibility from the parents to patients. Since implementing the program, the percentage of patients who successfully transition from St. Jude to adult health providers have increased from less than 15 percent to more than 75 percent. Read more.

Hey DFTM Fam–Check out the medical breakthroughs taking place at St. Jude everyday and meet the patients who are sure to touch your heart.  I watch a video today and cried!  So get out the tissues and your pocketbooks. You can support the charity and make a donation here.

About The Author

Vlog Mom/DFTM Creator

Not long ago, Heather Hopson hosted a television show in the Cayman Islands. Today, she's back home writing a different kind of story as a new mom. In her 15 years working as a professional journalist, this by far is her best assignment! Growing up, she dreamed of becoming Oprah Winfrey. She was the features editor for her school’s newspaper and a teen talk show host for her city’s most popular radio station. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. After graduation, she worked as a television producer and reporter at CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates throughout the U.S. Instead of heading to Chicago to join Ms. Winfrey on her set, she bought a plane ticket to the Cayman Islands instead. She arrived five days before a category five hurricane! She lived in paradise for seven years, hosted an award-winning television show and traveled the globe with a government delegation. She also served on the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters and spearheaded a Send a Kid to Camp campaign. Then, she relocated to Washington, D.C. to obtain a teaching certification and instruct 8th grade reading at a high needs middle school. She later returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA to raise her daughter Caitlynn, now 4-years-old. During her 10-month-stint as a stay-at-home mom, Caitlynn inspired her to create this blog, and Diary of a First Time Mom was born on Mother’s Day 2012. Two years later, she expanded the family to include 20+ writers. Currently, Heather serves as the communications director at Allies for Children. In addition, she is the owner of Motor Mouth Multimedia, which ranked #49 in Startup Nation’s Home-Based 100 Competition sponsored by Discover Card and Sam’s Club. Recently, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments selected Heather to receive an Emerging Black Artist award to develop Diary of a First Time Mom.

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