Splashing cuts through a still marsh early morning. A pompous crocodile barrels his way through the grass and into the murky water—waking all of the other animals. “Watch it” the croc exclaims. The other animals yawn awake in disgust, except one animal looks on with intrigue. A teeny white plover bird swoops down from a nearby branch and lands directly atop the crocodile’s scaly snout. Puffing up his chest, the plover bird peeks at the crocodile’s foul teeth and says to him, “You look like you could use a friend”.
I have a complicated relationship with Sickle Cell Disease. Depending on how you look at it, you could argue that my encounter with this illness has simultaneously been the best and the worst thing to ever happen to me.
When I was a senior in high school, I was the typical jock who only cared about himself, until an angel crashed into my life. After one of my games, a six-year-old boy with Sickle Cell Disease approached me and declared he was my biggest fan. He then said the last thing he wanted to do before going into the hospital for a full year of isolation for a bone marrow transplant was to play basketball with me. This little boy and I became best friends.
Over the next several years we spent an inordinate amount of time together, I hardly remember a moment when we were apart. From celebrating birthdays, to arguing about whether pineapples belonged on pizza, we were inseparable. A true yin and yang.
But as time passed, the complications increased and I watched my best friend’s physical strength deteriorate; so much so, there was less and less we could actually do together. It destroyed each and every fiber inside of me. Although, with little life left, I watched my best friend fight to keep his spirit strong. He always remembered to smile despite the pain. His final words to me, “Smile more”.
I am no doctor, so I am not going to try and pretend to be one. I haven’t the slightest clue what Sickle Cell Disease actually is or does to someone’s body. But what I do know is what Sickle Cell Disease is capable of. This complex illness is capable of keeping a ten-year-old full of life from realizing his full potential. But it is also capable of teaching a harsh lesson—many people out there need our help.
Sickle Cell Disease blessed me with a friendship that I will happily carry in my heart for the rest of my life. Now, although I hardly understand the complicated world of medicine, in some ways I know am grateful for this disease. Although Sickle Cell robbed me of my greatest friend, it also ridded me of a previous ailment that I’d suffered from—ignorance.
I only now realize that when no one else believed in me, this sick little boy flew over to be at my side. Despite the fact that he was literally only half my size at the time, he showed me what it meant to stand tall. When I was struggling to smile, he showed me that all I needed was a friend.
With the courage of a lion, the plover bird declared once more that he could help the crocodile despite how different they were from one another. “Fine” the crocodile said as the bird continued to sit on its snout. Then the croc slowly opened its monstrous jaw for the plover bird to enter. The bird happily cleaned up the decaying food stuck between the croc’s enormous teeth, both saving his new friend and feeding himself. Eventually, the two of them, despite their noticeable differences, would never leave each other’s side again. The croc now proudly smiled more than ever before. An unlikely duo that somehow became an everlasting friendship.
Trying to make the world a smilier place one character at a time.