NORFOLK, Va. — September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month, a time to help bring attention to the research and treatment of sickle cell disease.
Two Hampton Roads teens who have the disease, Tymiere Grayson and Ayana Johnson, are advocating for others living with it.
"We call them warriors because it takes a lot for someone, especially with sickle cell, to get up and even go to an emergency room," Genene Milligan, the mother of Tymiere Grayson, said.
Grayson, who is currently in the hospital, said the disease is unpredictable and you'll never know when it can stop you from doing something.
That includes interacting with friends and family. Grayson has been in and out of the hospital almost monthly, making it a rough year for him. But he looks at the opportunity the pain gives him to advocate for himself and others.
"I got to become the Children's Miracle Network champion for my hospital and I got to happily raise a lot of money for the hospital and raise awareness," he said.
Johnson, the other warrior, is Miss Roanoke Valley's Outstanding Teen and an ambassador for the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters. As someone living with sickle cell, she also advocates for others.
"I'm really excited that I get to represent CHKD in my community," she said. "Getting to be on the other foot of all of the fundraising and all of the events that we do to raise that money for CHKD when I was the kid who was being hospitalized constantly."
Both teens have been working with Sickle Cell Family and Peer Advocates. The organization is made up of parents of children living with Sickle working to educate the community.
"It's an opportunity for us to further educate the public about this devastating disease," said Dianne Creekmore with Sickle Cell Family and Peer Advocates.
Johnson and Grayson also are reminding people to get tested for sickle cell. If you're someone who doesn't have it, you can consider donating bone marrow for a sickle cell patient.
Author's note: The video above is on file from March 2021.