The despair Katrina and Jimmy Overstreet felt when seeing both of their children suffer is something no parent ever wants to experience. Their daughter, Madison, and son, Landon, were both diagnosed with sickle cell disease through newborn screenings.
Enduring Sickle Cell Disease
Sickle cell disease is a blood disorder that affects red blood cells. While normal red blood cells are round and smooth, sickle blood cells are hard, sticky and shaped like bananas.
Sickle red blood cells stick together and block blood vessels, which prevents blood flow to parts of the body. Blocked blood flow can cause sudden pain and can damage the body's tissues and organs over time.
“Being unable to comfort your child when they’re in pain is a feeling you can’t really describe,” Katrina said.
The team at Children’s focused on giving the Overstreet family strategies to help them through the challenges they were facing.
Both Sides of the Spectrum
Though Madison was on the mild spectrum for sickle cell disease, she got pneumonia when she was 3 years old and experienced acute chest syndrome—a common problem for children with the condition.
“Something we were learning to live with became very traumatic because we understood how serious it was,” Katrina said.
Then, just a week later, Landon, only 13 months old at the time, experienced his first sickle cell episode—a severe pain crisis. Pain crises happen when there is a loss of blood supply to a part of the body, usually in the bones or joints. Pain can continue for some time until the tissues start to heal and the nerves calm down.
For Landon, pain crises continued every other month, and recurrent trips to Children’s became a way of life for the Overstreets.
“Each time we visited, Children’s helped our kids to feel better, which made us comfortable,” Katrina said. “They answered our questions. They told us about the latest approaches. And they’re still here for us, 24 hours a day.”
A New Treatment
With the largest pediatric sickle cell disease program in the country, Children’s provides leading-edge treatments. Madison and Landon’s healthcare team recommended a medication that reduces the risk of acute chest syndrome and pain crises by helping red blood cells stay round.
“After seeing them in so much pain, we made the decision to try it,” Katrina said. “We knew we had to do something.”
The medication has made a difference for Madison and Landon. Today, Madison competes on the school cheerleading squad and Landon loves to swim.
“Life is back to normal,” she said. “And we have Children’s to thank for it.”