‘Giving up is an option, but don’t’
Woman living with sickle cell urges others to fight on
Mishcah Hamilton with her son, Micah. Thoughts of him kept her from taking her life during a heavy bout of depression.

Her life has been a blur of frequent hospitalisation, blood transfusions, excruciating pain, and massive medical bills, all of which have caused her mental health to deteriorate.

She once thought about ending it all, but Mishcah Hamilton has not given up her fight against sickle cell anaemia. She is urging others who are struggling with the disease not to give up either.

“It’s not a death sentence, the doctor said I wouldn’t live to see five years old, but here I am today. Keep fighting, even when you don’t feel like it. Get up, hold your head high with confidence because there’s greatness in you. Giving up is an option, but don’t,” she urged.

Hamilton was diagnosed with the disease at 10 months old. That was 28 years and two months ago.

“You know how normal babies would creep and crawl; I stopped doing that,” she recalled.

“It’s been a rough journey, going to school and you would have to be absent, and being teased for your sickness, not able to fit in with other children,” she added.

Plagued by depression for years after her diagnosis, her mental health was dealt another blow in 2008 when she was told she had Avascular Necrosis (AVN). This is a condition where bone tissue dies because of an inadequate supply of blood. It can lead to tiny breaks and cause the bone to collapse. Her doctor advised against surgery as it was too risky then.

In 2021 her doctor told her it was finally safe for her to do hip replacement surgery. It would mean a significant reduction in the pain she was feeling, but she had no way to cover the $2-million bill. Determined to get the surgery done, Hamilton launched a gofundme initiative. She surpassed her goal of CAD$11,000 and successfully had the vital medical procedure on April 16 this year.

“I thank God for that. Even during the surgery I was fighting for my life because I would have gotten spinal injection and sedation and I kept waking up, and I was asking if I’m alive,” she said.

“Being sedated I saw this beautiful wall painted, and I was just going and I remember saying I have to fight for my son. He needs me. I came through, and immediately after the surgery, no pain in the right hip,” a grateful Hamilton recalled.

She now uses crutches but is doing physiotherapy to aid in her full recovery.

The sickle cell warrior stressed the importance of a strong support system.

“Shak’s Hope Foundation, a charitable organisation based in Florida for sickle cell warriors operated by Andrea and Paul, played an integral role in my surgery; Eden Hope Ministries; my family; my mom, Kareem Thomas; and my sister, Ellisha Thunder,” she said of those who provided support.

Her two-year-old son, Micah Lawrence, is also on that list.

It was his presence in her life that kept her from taking hers during a heavy bout with depression in 2019. She thought about overdosing on pills.

“But I would have had my child in 2019. So there was this fight. There were so many things running in my mind, what is going to happen to my son. I know I have my family, but no one is going to love him like me,” she said, adding that those thoughts saved her life.

Despite her mental and physical struggles, Hamilton has tried her best to live a normal life. She did fairly well in primary school and in 2016 she was accepted into Northern Caribbean University’s mass communication programme. She had to put her studies on hold, though, due to ill health and a lack of funds. Her frequent stays in the hospital cost her several jobs. Unable to fully support herself financially added to her already constant mental strain.

“Because I have been sick for so long, I wonder if I do get a job, am I going to have another crisis. It does affect me mentally, but I try to do what I can in this moment,” she said. She is currently job hunting for a work-from-home opportunity.

Each year, on June 19, countries all over the world celebrate World Sickle Cell Day, which was initially presented as a resolution by the United Nations in 2008. The goal of this day is to recognise that sickle cell anaemia is a public health problem and promote education about the genetic condition.

Mishcah Hamilton doing physiotherapy on her hip. She had hip replacement surgery on April 16.

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