Denesha Carter Mitchell: A Sickle Cell Patient and Advocate

Denesha Carter Mitchell: A Sickle Cell Patient and Advocate

Denesha was four years old when her parents discovered that she had sickle cell disease. It wasn’t until the birth of her brother that it was uncovered that both had sickle cell disease. Despite near death crises and obstacles with the medical teams who have been challenged with how to care for her, Denesha remains optimistic and draws on her faith for strength to keep going, not only for herself and her family, but also for the countless number of sickle cell patients who are hesitant to let others know their pain.

“Through the years, even when the pain has felt like glass being jack hammered throughout my body, I’ve stayed strong. I’ve always told myself that I have a purpose in life and there’s a reason why sickle cell landed with me. I’ve resolved that my purpose is to be a voice,” states Denesha. “When I’ve had to stand up for myself when medical treatments have not worked and stood my ground for alternative opinions and courses of treatment, I realized, if I can be strong enough to be an advocate for myself – I can be a voice for others.”

Advocacy for early testing, compassionate medical care, and awareness and motivation for the Black community to be blood donors are all main components to Denesha’s mission in life. “It is the blood transfusions from generous donors, that get me and my brother through the toughest moments and allow us to live. During a near death episode two years ago, I resolved to not only be a voice, but also educate my community and inspire them to donate. Their drops of blood are life for those of us with sickle cell. Blood donors make a difference for our life span,” said Denesha.

Blood transfusion helps patients by increasing the number of normal red blood cells in the body, helping to deliver oxygen throughout the body and unblock blood vessels. A single sickle cell patient can require multiple blood transfusions each year throughout their life to treat complications from this disease.

Denesha, middle, pictured with her parents, siblings and nephews.

“I’m so grateful to have a strong family support network, which includes 11 brothers and sisters and their families. My parents, who check up on me daily, my husband who has stood by me for the past 20 years, my children, and so many other family members and friends who step up to help and be my hands and feet when I’ve been wheelchair bound. I realize that others may not have that type of team rallying for them – I wish to be that support person for someone who doesn’t have it,” said Denesha.

Denesha’s husband has played an integral part of her support system.

Denesha works for the Cook County Forest Preserve and has visions to fully cement an organization that not only supports sickle cell patients, but also commemorates those that lost their life to sickle cell disease and motivates the Black community to be recurring blood donors.

The blood that runs through our veins can ease the suffering of others — and patients battling sickle cell disease need your help now. Please schedule a blood donation appointment today by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

Written by Illinois Communications Manager Connie Esparza

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