Exchange Transfusions Changed My Life
My name is Laurel Brumant- Palmer I am 58 years old, I was diagnosed with Sickle Cell Disease SS at the age of 3 years old. I am a Sickle Cell survivor.
Living with sickle cell disease has been tough; it has been a constant struggle both mentally and physically. Growing up as a child was difficult because that was the period of time that I experienced my worse crisis ever.
I missed so much schooling and felt so different although I had the most amazing parents and siblings that anyone could ask for. My siblings took so much time out looking after me rubbing my joints to try and ease the pain during a crisis. They also made me feel special while at the same treating me no different from one another. My parents wrapped me in cotton wool, as they were lost dealing with a chronic illness they knew little about.
I had very little confidence in myself and I just did not think that there was any future for me. In fact, I really did not want to continue living if this was going to be my life.
The Sickle cell Society became a great support to myself and my family introducing us to other sufferers and their families. My sister worked for the Society for a short period of time, something that is very faint in the back of my beaten memory.
It seemed that anything I did or tried to do was always controlled by a crisis appearing at the wrong time. I could not get excited about anything and if I did you can be sure that a crisis was always around the corner waiting to attack. I have experienced several bouts of pneumonia, many episodes of acute chest syndrome, and my spleen and Gall Bladder have both been removed.
I was diagnosed with Avascular necrosis of the left hip at the age of 21 and Papillary Necrosis of the kidneys. My body has basically been battered by sickle cell disease.
I had several transfusions prior to starting the Exchange Transfusion program. I now believe that I have learnt to accept and live with sickle cell although I still really struggle on a day-to-day basis. I am now a mother, daughter, wife, grandmother, colleague and friend too many but most important I am a survivor and advocate.
I started having exchange transfusions when I was around 16- 18 years old prior to that I was on regular transfusions. This resulted in having a Porta Cath fitted in my chest causing me to experience several severe infections in the line. Having to use a twenty-four-hour pump that consisted of a small butterfly which I had to insert into my tummy was not easy. I had to do the 3-4 nights a week to remove the excess iron that was building up in my body over time. This was known as iron Chelation.
I had two successful pregnancies which both went well, exchange transfusions kept me well through both. I was employed part time for the first time in my life and was transfused during my employment. Got married…went back to study subjects that I believed I could have done better at had I not been continuously hospitalized.
I final completed a degree while working part time at the age of 52. This was something I had always dreamt of achieving. I graduated in 2016 with a 1st Class Honors in Graphic Design, Visual communication and Illustration.
TODAY I MUST SAY WHO COULD IT BE BUT JESUS and all those many blood donors who donated their blood and saved my life
I express a huge part of myself through my art, which often includes art that portraits pain and sickle cell or reflections of my past journey. I use art to tell my story, to raise awareness and to also help me to stay in touch with my inner self. It is something that I would love to do every day for the rest of my life. You can see my work on Instagram @Laurelbrumant and you can also follow my blog on the Sickle Cell Society Website I also produce regular work.
Creativity was something that I was blessed with and I use it as a form of therapy. My faith in God and my art helps me to escape into a place of peace. This enables me to deal with life’s challenges in a positive way.
The increased demand for some rare subtypes, such as Ro, that are more common in people of Black heritage means we need more black people to become blood donors. Demand for these subtypes is growing as more people have regular transfusions to treat blood disorders such as sickle cell.
Subtypes are important when someone has regular transfusions, as they need blood that matches their own as closely as possible. We need people from all communities to give blood to make sure there’s the right blood available for everyone.
If I have to be honest when I started receiving blood I knew nothing about ethnically matched blood all I knew was that I had to have a blood test several days before I received blood. I knew my blood was being cross-matched so that I received blood from a person with the same blood group as myself. Yes, my lack of knowledge was poor and I don’t ever remember anyone explaining to me the true need of blood donors of black heritage. I needed the blood it was helping me lead a life with less crisis than I was experiencing before.
However, after several years of being on the exchange transfusion I started to have reactions to the blood in the form of high temperature, high blood pressure and coming out in rashes and sometimes just generally feeling awful and unwell. I had to always be administered antihistamine either before or during my blood transfusions to control the reactions I had.