RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Twin boys from the Richmond area are taking on your lawmakers to make sure kids who are in the hospital get the support they need from Washington.
Gabriel and Noah Cypress look like your average 9-year-olds. They love running around; Gabriel plays basketball and Noah is working on another original book.
But when they were born, mom LaToya Cypress says the doctors told them something shocking – the twins had sickle cell disease.
“The number of hospitalizations they’ve had, we stopped counting a long time ago. It’s almost as common, or as normal, as going to the grocery store,” she explained.
Sickle cell disease is a group of red blood cell disorders that misshapes red blood cells and causes abnormal levels of hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen throughout the body. It’s passed on by genes, parent to child.
The boys go to the hospital whenever they feel pain in their body. They support each other, all of the time.
“It’s definitely been a challenge. The boys have been so strong and we’re super proud of them,” LaToya Cypress said.
Because the boys are there so often, the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University reached out.
Each year, a group goes to Washington, D.C. to talk to representatives about child healthcare during the Children Hospital Association’s Family Advocacy Day.
This year, Gabriel and Noah were invited to go, preparing a speech all on their own for Virginia officials.
Our Capitol Correspondent Sara McCloskey asked the boys if they were scared talking to such important people. They said they were very comfortable.
“In my mind, I was like yeah, we’re here. We made it,” Noah said, thinking about what it was like to sit on Senator Tim Kaine’s couch in his Capitol Hill office.
The boys also spoke with Sen. Mark Warner (VA-D), Representatives David Brat (District 7-R) and Donald McEachin (District 4-D), telling them what it’s like to be in the hospital so often. They also thanked the lawmakers for reauthorizing CHIP funding this year.
LaToya Cypress says she knows many families struggle with paying for life-saving procedures.
“They have to face a battle to make sure they can receive treatment or medication, that families might not be able to afford on their own,” she said.
The boys spoke from the heart, in the hopes of helping others like them.
“We’re thankful, we get to advocate,” Noah and Gabriel said. “We get to help out other kids.”
It was an experience the twins and their family will never forget. But for now, the boys are going back home to enjoy their summer vacation.