Darius Randolph’s bubbly personality and positive outlook on life was apparent during his Facebook Live stream — from his clinic bed.
To look at him, you wouldn’t be able to tell that Randolph, a high school student in Harker Heights, lives with a condition known as sickle cell anemia. He loves dancing, singing and swimming. But he must monitor his health to insure he doesn’t have a crisis episode of potentially fatal pain, dehydration or blood clots.
Drinking water and warming up his body can help de-escalate a minor crisis, but if that doesn’t work, he can require a visit to a clinic or an emergency room, and may be admitted to the hospital for days at a time.
Randolph’s live video presentation is part of the Central Texas College commemoration event supporting Black History Month through a series of presentations titled “The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity.”
Randolph was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia at the age of 4.
“I was always getting sick and crying,” Randolph said. “I wasn’t necessarily a bad child, but I was always crying and my eyes were really, really yellow — just not normal for a healthy child to go through.”
After swimming lessons one summer, Randolph’s mother Keisha Durant noticed he came home one day with a fever that wouldn’t respond to Tylenol or Motrin.
“I called the doctor and got a same-day appointment,” Durant recalled. “We brought him in and right away, she looked at him and said, ‘he has sickle cell.’”
Both Durant and Randolph’s father carried sickle cell traits, and Darius Randolph inherited the condition.
The support from their family and community members helps keep the family going, Durant said.
“It’s hard seeing your child in pain and you can’t do anything about it,” Durant said. “It can be very challenge and sometimes it can be very overwhelming. With the support of my husband, and our other two boys, it gets easier.”
At 18 years old, Randolph has gone through multiple blood transfusions — including a whole-body exchange.
“They ran out all my blood and put new blood in me,” Randolph said.
Under an acute flare, sickle cell anemia can also affect a variety of organs, Durant said. Randolph, who also has asthma, can develop pneumonia during a more severe crisis, which requires additional treatment.
Randolph addressed the need for medical personnel to be better versed in treating sickle cell anemia, which predominately affects African Americans who usually inherit the condition from traits carried by their parents.
During one particularly intense crisis, he remembered vomiting in his grandmother’s car on the way to the emergency room, and crying out in intense pain.
“The nurses were looking at me like, ‘what is going on with this kid?’” Randolph recalled. “I could tell they cared for me, but they didn’t know how to treat someone with sickle cell — that was problem number one right there.”
Because of an initial drop in his oxygen levels, the doctors took him off the pain medication, rather than giving him an oxygen supplement. For three days in the hospital he was in intense pain.
“They could have asked or gone to my file from my hospital back in Texas and see my history and see what dosage to give me and stuff like that,” Randolph said.
Durant helps Randolph manage his disorder with natural supplements in addition to the strong medications he is prescribed.
Randolph said he is grateful for the way the school arranges to get his assignments sent to him if he is hospitalized — but the pressure of trying to stay caught up while recovering from a hospital stay can be difficult.
But through everything, Randolph keeps a positive outlook.
“It doesn’t really affect me,” Randolph said. “It can affect people’s mental health. But every time I go into the hospital, I just worry about getting home and doing the things that I love.”
Knowing that he can recover and get back to enjoying life also drives his hope, he said.
“Nothing is holding me back,” Randolph said. “I literally do anything a normal kid can do. I am a little different. I have to watch how much energy I use, how long I’m out, and stuff like that — make sure I’m taking my medicine.”