Sickle Cell awareness, a priority for Dville queen

Originally published by Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital
A Day at St. Jude. Miss Donaldsonville Teen 2016, Sha'Tia Campbell poses with her nurses.

Reigning Miss Donaldsonville Teen - Sha’Tia Campbell - was diagnosed with sickle cell disease as an infant.

"I didn’t know it then, but she experienced her first crisis at about 18 months old," said her mother, Leah Henry Campbell. "All she did was sleep, and she always seemed tired. My sister told me that was not normal for her age, so I decided to take her to see her pediatrician."

After her test results came back, the doctors discovered her spleen was not functioning normally. It had trapped her blood and had grown larger than normal. Her hemoglobin - a protein in red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body - was extremely low at .3 – she was in trouble. She had to undergo surgery to have her spleen and appendix removed, as well as a blood transfusion.

"I couldn’t believe she received three bags of blood," Campbell said. "This was an eye-opener for me - I then realized how serious this disease was.

I was advised that the best way to help my daughter was to educate myself about sickle cell disease. I learned that sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that can cause stroke, pain, infections and other symptoms."

Approximately 1 in 375 African Americans in the United States is born with the disease.

"I was told children with sickle cell disease often die at a very young age. I think I cried for days. Dr. Elkins told me not to worry, because she was sending Sha’Tia to receive the best help in the state of Louisiana with Dr. Sheila Moore at the St. Jude Affiliate Clinic at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital."

Because children with sickle cell disease are susceptible to life-threatening infections, they require a daily dose of penicillin. At the first sign of fever, the child must immediately go to the hospital for IV antibiotics. Sha’Tia would often get sick and develop a high fever.

As she grew older, she began to live life as a normal child, until she started having stomach pains. After another hospital visit, the family learned Sha'Tia needed her gallbladder removed. Shortly after, a transcranial test - ultrasound that examines blood circulation within the brain - was run on Sha’Tia. The results showed that she had an abnormal blood vessel in her right temporal lobe, which could be fatal. Sha’Tia then began transfusion therapy - a blood transfusion every three to four weeks to help repair the damaged blood vessels in her temporal lobe in order for her to survive.

"I couldn’t believe what I was hearing," Campbell said. "How could this be happening to my child?

Despite everything that was happening, I knew Sha’Tia was in good hands. In fact, the care was so holistic that a social worker from the clinic recommended the Make-A-Wish foundation where they granted Sha’Tia her wish of being a princess at Walt Disney World in Florida. This wonderful experience allowed Sha’Tia to take her mind off of her situation for a short while."

In August, Sha'Tia won the title of Miss Donaldsonville Teen 2016. She uses her title as a means to promote Sickle Cell Anemia awareness. Her primary platform is the River Road African American Museum.