Terri Taylor, 29, of Killeen was just 3 when her parents learned she had sickle cell anemia, a genetic blood disorder.
Sickle cell anemia affects the body when red blood cells become diseased and fail to provide necessary oxygen to the blood stream.
“It’s been hard to live with,” Taylor said. “(My mother) just sat me down and told me that I had it, and that it will cause pain in my legs and arms.”
Taylor is among more than 550 people in Central Texas with sickle cell anemia, said Rev. Gene Carter, executive director of the Central Texas Sickle Cell Anemia Association in Waco.
“Sickle cell disease started in the Mediterranean area in Africa and affects mostly dark-skinned individuals,” he said. “However, it doesn’t only affect African-Americans, but all of us to a certain degree.”
Carter wants to strengthen awareness about sickle cell anemia in hopes of saving lives.
In the last 15 months, four of the association’s clients from the Killeen and Copperas Cove area died from complications of the disease, he said. The victims ranged in age from 15 to 25.
“Unfortunately, most of our clients die at an early age, and many times they have complications that deal with their spleen and kidneys,” Carter said.
Growing up, doctors told Taylor she would not live past her 25th birthday and would never have children. But she beat those odds. She now has two children and is on her way to greeting her 30s.
However, Taylor makes occasional trips to the hospital for blood transfusions and spends most of her days in pain, she said.
“I can’t work because of the pain. It’s a sharp achy pain that is just miserable.”
Through the discomfort, Taylor attempts to lead a normal life. A certified nursing assistant, she hopes to use her skills someday in a medical environment.
In the meantime, she encourages other sickle cell patients to never live in fear.
“I want to support and help others who have it,” she said. “Especially the young ones who are told they can’t have kids, because you never know what’s in your future.”
For more information on the Central Texas Sickle Cell Anemia Association, call (254) 752-3441 or go to centexsicklecell.org.