Despite the hardships that come with living with sickle cell disease, Cameron Thedford carries himself with quiet bravery and determination.
The 2017 graduate of John Carroll High School in Birmingham has enrolled at University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) to study physical therapy, a field that piqued his interest after completing community service hours at a local nursing home. He plays basketball and Xbox video games, and he hangs out with friends. And once a month since age 8, Cameron and his mother, Carmesha, have a clinic appointment at Children’s of Alabama for regular blood transfusions and now red blood cell exchange apheresis, a nonsurgical therapy that removes and replaces a patient’s red blood cells.
Cameron was born with sickle cell disease in June 1999 with mild complications. As Cameron grew, he battled a bout of pneumonia and later suffered a stroke at age 5. He spent a week in the intensive care unit as a result.
“That was really scary,” said Carmesha, who went on to recall Cameron’s subsequent liver biopsies, gallstone removal and port placement for apheresis treatments. “Cameron doesn’t like to complain about anything. He’s always smiling, always happy. He never feels down because of his illness.”
Both Carmesha and Cameron credit their optimism to their Children’s care team, specifically pediatric hematologist-oncologist Thomas Howard, M.D., and nurse practitioner Kristen Osborn.
“Dr. Howard has been an excellent doctor. The staff is always on top of everything and I never questioned anything,” Carmesha said.
Said Cameron, “Up here they do the best they can to make you feel better. They look out for you.”
As Cameron enters his college years, he wants to offer words of encouragement to other children living with sickle cell disease.
“It’s gonna be hard, but as long as you have a good doctor, you are in good hands,” he said. “And pray.”
“And take your medicine,” Carmesha said in a mother’s tone.