Constance Benson: Sickle Cell Story's ROAD2THECURE
I was discharged about thirty minutes before this video was taken. I had been in the hospital for 8 or 9 days and I was still in pain at the time of this video. I was absolutely terrified of Doctor Eckmon. I knew that he was apart of the study and that his professional opinion was going to make or break my chances of being cured from Sickle Cell Anemia. I was unsure of what he was going to ask me and I prayed that I would say the right things to gain his approval and assistance in this study.
In the course of two years, I went from beginning a promising career in the modeling industry as a professional runway model to fighting for my life. During the events leading up to the Bone Marrow Transplant and the times that followed after the transplant, I saw my friendships dwindle away, my social life become obsolete and my life pass before my eyes. I would suffer from a pain crisis (varying from moderate to severe) at least once every two weeks. I was always sick and often times I was admitted into the hospital for a Sickle Cell Pain Crisis' every time the weather (barometric pressure) would change.
I was signed to Wilhelmina Philadelphia Women's division. Just as I was beginning to be requested by name, my body gave up on me. During the first half of my modeling contract, I would drive 13 hours straight from my grandmother's house (in New Jersey) to Kennestone Hospital (in Kennesaw, GA), where my Hematologist Doctor Carmen Klass (and my family) was ready to nurse me back to health. After I was nursed back to health, I would inquire about my next gig and we would start the cycle all over again. To anyone on the outside looking in, this would be the very definition of insanity but to my family, my doctor and I; I was going after my dreams.
I knew that I was never going to be pain free and I thought that the pain would go away as soon as my body was acclimated to my gruesome traveling schedule. Boy was I wrong!
Several hospitalizations later, it hit me that I would never be pain-free.
I remember breaking down and crying so hard while talking to my mother about how hard it was to be sick all the time and to suffer from frequent Sickle Cell Pain Crisis and hospitalizations. After my mother calmed me down, she reminded me that if I would just drop down to my knees and pray for God's help, that He would provide relief for me! I remember getting on my knees and praying!!!
After a series of events that are nothing short of a miracle, we were directed right into the hands of Doctor Edmund Waller. Doctor Waller is the head of Emory University Hospitals Bone Marrow Transplant team. He is the go-to man in the field of Bone Marrow Transplants (or BMT for short). After a series of appointments and tests ran by Doctor Waller's office, I was told that I needed to make an appointment with Doctor Eckmon. Doctor Waller had enlisted the help of Doctor Eckmon on the STRIDE-HCT study. Doctor Eckmon is one of the best Sickle Cell doctors in the United States and has been at the forefront of research for several decades.
In order to participate in the STRIDE-HCT study, I had to be evaluated by him. You see Doctor Eckmon bought a level of understanding and knowledge of Sickle Cell Anemia to the study that was unparalleled.