Seven-year-old Joel Littleton has been battling sickle cell disease (SCD) his entire life, but he has not been doing it alone.
From the day Joel was born, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center have been helping him and his family navigate this complex disease with genuine compassion and support.
“From our very first visit with his hematologist and all the staff at the Aflac Cancer Center, we have found hope that has continued to this day,” his mother, Joanne, said.
SCD is a lifelong disease that can cause many health complications, including increased risk of stroke and infection, anemia and periods of intense pain called crises.
For the first five years of his life, Joel took penicillin and iron supplements every day in addition to managing an extensive pain management routine. Though the Littleton family has been in and out of the hospital more times than they can count, they are thankful for the incredible support of the entire staff at the Aflac Cancer Center.
When Joel was 6, he was rushed to Children’s with acute chest syndrome. Doctors informed his family that his condition was worsening and that he would require a complete blood transfusion.
The Littletons were devastated by this news.
Fortunately, the staff at the Aflac Cancer Center are known for their exceptional care. “The techs and nurses told me everything that was going to happen. They took such good care of my little boy during this intimidating procedure,” Joanne said. “They also thought of our entire family and always provided anything we needed to make our stay comfortable, too.”
The transfusion went well, and Joel even managed to keep a positive attitude throughout the process. During his weeklong stay, Joel painted pictures and hung them up in his room to lift everyone’s spirits.
With the help of the Aflac Cancer Center, Joel’s SCD is now under control. He is taking a new medicine and is responding very positively. Once a month, he returns to the center to make sure his treatment plan is the best it can be. In the past year, Joel’s pain crises have been minimal, and the Littleton family has managed to stay out of the hospital.
“His blood platelet count looks great, and the size of his red blood cells has vastly increased,” Joanne said.
Last year, Joel also had the opportunity to spend a week at Camp New Hope, a camp specially designed for kids with SCD that teaches them different ways to cope with their condition while building self-esteem and confidence.
For the Littleton family, there is no one else they would rather have on their team than the staff at the Aflac Cancer Center. “We always feel surrounded by people who truly seem to care for Joel,” Joanne said. “They are angels sent from above.”