Sydnie and Tenille are two teenagers who at first glance look very different from each other. They’re a year apart in school and have completely opposing styles, but they have one thing in common; they both have sickle cell disease.
Sickle cell disease is a serious disorder in which the body makes sickle-shaped — also known as crescent-shaped — red blood cells. This causes an array of problems, since sickle cells are stiff and sticky, as opposed to the easy-moving, disc-shaped normal cells. They tend to block blood flow, which can cause pain and organ damage, as well as raise the risk for infection. No definitive cure for sickle cell has been found yet, so those with the disease face a lifetime of treatment, which is what Sydnie and Tenille do at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.
They’ve been coming here and receiving treatment at the Sickle Cell Comprehensive Care Center since they were first diagnosed at just months old. The doctors and nurses have been there for them through all the medical emergencies, but it has also helped in one very important and unexpected way: providing the place for them to meet and form a friendship. As teenagers with sickle cell who had to miss school frequently because of pain crises, it was difficult for them to find someone their age who would understand what they were going through. The nurse coordinator at the Sickle Cell Center, Evelyn Cruz, believed both girls could benefit from having a friend going through the same experience and introduced them to one another.
It turns out she was right, and since then, Sydnie and Tenille have formed a bond. They check up on each other when one is in the hospital, and stop by to visit. They’ve also volunteered together at hospital events, helping spread awareness about their condition. Their friendship comes to show that, at Nicklaus Children’s, the staff doesn’t define health just by what medicine and treatment can do, but also by providing what emotional support a patient may need.