RICHMOND (WRIC)—In Virginia, one out of 325 babies is born with sickle cell disease, a genetic blood disorder. For these kids, growing up definitely comes with growing pains.
One young survivor refuses to let the disease deter her dream. At 12 years old, Kennedi Briggs-Gary loves music. And with just two years of guitar lessons under her belt, she already knows she wants to turn the hobby into a career—teaching music.
"She has a knack with her fingertips that I could never get in guitar, so I just like watching her blossom with the different tunes and chords that she learns," said Nicole Briggs-Gary, Kennedi's mother.
Nicole Briggs-Gary says her daughter's talent and vibrant personality are what really make her stand out, not her bout with sickle cell disease. Still, Kennedi often deals with questions about her condition from her seventh-grade classmates.
"They just wonder what it's like and I say, ‘Well, it's not hard; it's not like you're different from everybody else … just a few things you have to be aware of,'" Kennedi said.
Simple things like drinking plenty of water, eating healthy and exercising can prevent a sickle cell crisis.
"The biggest part is a lot of nosebleeds and pain every now and then," Nicole said.
Kennedi was at a friend's house the first time she experienced sickle cell pain.
"We were in the pool, then I felt this pain in my knees and then it got worse, so I had to go to the hospital," she said.
"Temperatures can sometimes trigger," Nicole said. "We're not exactly sure what the triggers are for sickle cell."
Although the triggers are a mystery, doctors are sure about one thing—both parents must carry the sickle cell trait in order for a child to be born with the disease. Kennedi's family found out when she was a newborn.
"I was devastated actually, because I did not know that my husband had the trait," Nicole said.
Sickle cell disease has always been a part of Kennedi's life, but she's not letting that stop her from the things she loves, like playing with her dog, Olive.
"And you can get through it, ‘cause you're no different if you have sickle cell," Kennedi said. "You can still do everything else anybody else can do."
Nicole has advice for other parents like her, helping kids with sickle cell disease.
"The best thing to do is to just be calm and maybe play their favorite music," she said.
For Kennedi, music is a reminder of the bright future that lies ahead.
Kennedi and her mother attended the Unity Ride last year; it's the biggest fundraiser in the fight against sickle cell disease. This year's Unity Ride is on May 3.
Copyright 2014 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond
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