The Challenges of Attending School With Sickle Cell
Last updated: July 2022
I first understood what it meant to have sickle cell when I was growing up as a child in primary school.
Often I would miss a lot of time off of school because I was physically unwell and had to go home halfway through the day. Sometimes, I would miss school due to regular hospital admissions and long stays.
This used to really frustrate me as I actually had a huge passion and desire for learning. From a young age, I realized that I would often get tired a lot quicker than the other kids, especially when it came to certain subjects which required a lot more physical exertion or movement, such as PE and swimming.
This often caused me to dislike these subjects as sometimes I would have to sit out on the side and I felt like it would draw a lot of attention to myself. I used to hate it when the other kids would look at me weirdly or would ask me a lot of questions.
Sometimes I would have disputes with certain teachers as they would think I'm making up excuses. This happened even though they were very much aware of my condition and my mum would have to write letters explaining why I would be missing a certain class or requesting to sit out.
Because of this, I would often feel like I had to work ten times harder just to prove myself in school. I always had a passion for creative subjects so I would often try my best to thrive and be recognized in these areas.
Grateful for my mum
Even when I was in hospital my mum was amazing at getting my teachers to send me classwork so I wouldn’t fall behind and having my teacher to send me group class cards that everyone would sign. Even with my sickle cell my mum would always encourage me to try my best with my studies and my education as she always wanted me to reach my full potential no matter what and not limit myself due to my illness. For that, I am always thankful and grateful.
My mum never wanted me to feel like the odd one out or isolated from the other kids. I feel like this is an attitude that I have tried to carry with me throughout most of my life in educational and workspaces.
When I was in secondary school, my experience with my sickle cell was a lot easier to manage than when I was in primary school, as I was slightly older and had more experience living with it and managing it. I would miss less time off of school, however, whenever we would have intense exam periods I would often get really stressed out and that would usually trigger me to have a crisis.
The worst was around the time of my GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education) as there was so much pressure to get good grades as these were our final exams in secondary school and these grades would determine what colleges and sixth forms we would get into. I remember being so ill after one of my exams and arriving at my sister's house, she was so concerned about me that she instantly advised me to admit myself into hospital, during that hospital stay I ended up actually missing two of my exams. It stressed me out even more knowing that I would have to resit those exams.
Studying performing arts
Going into the sixth form to study performing arts and not long after going off to drama school, I would often get ill whenever we would have a big show or final performance due to the additional pressure to perform exceptionally, achieve certain targets, and represent the school in a professional light. Whenever we were going through these periods I always felt like I was the person that would let the class or myself down, however, I always tried to allow my passion and enthusiasm to carry me through. Somehow I finished with good grades.
Me graduating from drama school whilst having sickle cell is probably my biggest accomplishment to date and one that I will cherish forever because as much as it was a battle to get through my school years, I did it and I’m still standing which proves to me that I can do anything if I really put my mind to it.
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