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May is for Miracles: 13-year-old Larry doesn’t let sickle cell anemia control his life

‘I didn’t have to feel that pain anymore.’
May is for Miracles: 13-year-old Larry doesn’t let sickle cell anemia control his life
Published: May. 4, 2022 at 7:36 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Sickle cell anemia is an inherited lifelong disorder where cells that are sickle in shape are ineffective and can clog the blood vessels causing intense pain. This is something that 13-year-old Larry knows all too well.

Nurse Practitioner Cheri Salazar explained what treatment entails.

“Larry goes to the MSU hematology oncology clinic across the street and then is treated here at Sparrow when he has complications with his sickle cell disease,” Salazar said.

Both of Larry’s parents carry the sickle cell trait, so they knew that this was a possibility before he was born. Stacy Drake is Larry’s mom.

“His first hospitalization was when he was three months old. After his first hospitalization, it was more like a monthly occurrence,” Drake said. “We didn’t know what to expect and of course we were here more often than we wanted to be because of the sickle cell, and at the rate he was having the crisis.”

Drake said they had fears at first, but they learned about the disease and had a great support system at Sparrow.

“We trusted them and kept our faith,” she said.

With the help of education, a healthy diet and medicine, Larry tires to live the most normal life that a 13-year-old can. He told News 10 the kind of struggle he used to have to deal with more often.

“I started feeling that same pain in my chest again to the point of where I was like, on the floor under my desk, so I told my teacher to call my mom,” Larry said. “When I was discharged from the hospital, I felt so much better that I didn’t have to feel that pain anymore.”

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As Larry grows into his teen years, he’ll continue to have pain episodes and experience the effects of the sickle cell anemia.

“Some people experience growing pains and I think it’s true,” Drake said. “He’s getting taller, his body is changing, joints are changing, limbs are changing, that can be kind of rough on him.”

The support of the team of nurses and doctors at both the MSU Pediatric Hematology/Oncology group and Sparrow Hospital have helped to lessen his episodes and hospital visits.

Salazar said, “For children like Larry and his family this not something that is cured. This is a life-long thing for Larry, so really these families go through a lot from the very beginning.”

Although the condition cannot be cured, Salazar said Sparrow’s goal in the case of sickle cell anemia is to give the patient the best life possible, but ultimately it’s an effort between medical staff and the patient to ensure the disease does not have a greater impact.

“We give as much as we possibly can so they can be as healthy as possible and live a good long life and without complications,” Salazar said. “Larry does a great job taking care of himself and advocating for himself which is really important for our teenagers and young adults.”

We are looking for you to donate to the Sparrow Children’s Center and help more miracle children.

Your donation will help benefit the sick and injured by strengthening programs and facilities that give young patients the best care possible.

All week long, you can make a donation to Sparrow Children’s Center through their website.

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