A slightly crooked tall multi-tier cake with a birthday candle.

Why My Birthday Is A Big Deal

I’ve always loved birthdays; who doesn’t?

Celebrating birthdays

As a child it was a day to be spoilt, pampered and dare I say, see who gives you the best present. But as I got older, acknowledging my birthday became a big deal to me for a different reason.

Living with sickle cell

Growing up I was never really aware of how serious sickle cell could be. I didn’t really understand what having sickle cell meant for my body. I had no idea there were worse things that could happen aside from the painful sickle crisis. And I definitely didn’t realise that my life expectancy was lower than any other healthy human being.

A few weeks after my 16th birthday...

The severity of living with sickle cell didn’t become apparent to me until I almost lost my life a few weeks after my 16th birthday. There I was wondering what life had in store for me, feeling like a proper young adult with my whole life ahead of me. I was regularly in and out of hospital around this time of my life so when I felt a crisis come on, I didn’t suspect this one would be different.

An unusually bad crisis

What I thought was just an unusually bad crisis turned out to be a life-threatening complication of sickle cell called acute chest syndrome. In layman’s terms, or the way I understood it; I was having a crisis in my lungs.

One evening I was fine and wondering if I’d be discharged from hospital soon. The next morning I was suffocating on my own mucus and a crash team had to be called. I was rushed to intensive care and the urgency and panic on everyone’s faces made realise how serious this was. All I wanted was to see my parents.

A state of shock

Unaware of how much time had passed, the next thing I remembered was waking up and feeling like I was hooked up to every machine possible. I had things connected to my arms, tubes coming out of my groin and a ventilation mask on my face (it’s the most unusual feeling having your lungs being pumped full of air). All I could do was observe. I was in complete shock.

Is this it?

I could see both my parents with a look of devastation on their face. At that point I started to think, is this it?

There was a lot that took place throughout this whole ordeal. Some things I can speak about, some still cause me to get emotional. One thing is for sure, I came out a different person.

My spirituality got me through

Without sounding crazy, let’s just say my spirituality got me through that experience and it was made very clear to me that it wasn’t my time. However, the whole experience changed my outlook on life and made me see it through a different lens.

Every birthday matters

Since then, every birthday is a big deal. Not for the gifts and not for being spoiled or pampered. It’s a big deal for me to be able to celebrate the fact that I’ve been given the opportunity to make the most of another year. I acknowledge my achievements and the lessons I’ve learned. And I love to celebrate with those I have around me that have helped me to make my year meaningful.

Every June on my birthday, I think back to the ordeal that my 16-year-old self had to overcome. It taught me that at some point, this human experience we are currently living has to end for us all. As I celebrate my birthday this year, I would like to leave you with this:

“We don’t have forever to do all the things we want to do, so live life to the fullest and do what makes you happy.”

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