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Jessica Razor Survives Cardiac Arrest & Childbirth

Shenetha Shipp

When I was just six-weeks-old, I was diagnosed with Sickle Cell Anemia Disease. I spent the first two years of my life in and out of the hospital. Doctors did not expect me to live past the age of two, then 12. Starting at the age of five I have had to get blood transfusions every four weeks to treat my Sickle Cell. With Sickle Cell Disease, your blood cells aren't round anymore. They turn into the shape of a sickle making it hard to carry oxygen through the blood. The disease seemed to disappear until my freshman year of college. When I went off to school, I was no longer getting my blood transfusions.

At the end of the fall semester of my freshman year at the University of Tennessee at Martin, I had a Sickle Cell crisis. I had no idea what was going on with my body. I just knew I was in pain and could not walk. I was so determined to not miss school that when my friends came with me to the Emergency Room I was begging to go back to class. Being at a school that is majority Caucasian, the hospital staff did not know anything about Sickle Cell (Sickle Cell Anemia is a disease that affects only African Americans). They had to call my doctor in Memphis to get orders from her on how to treat the illness. I was in the hospital for two weeks. To keep up with my school work, my friends brought my laptop to the hospital. My instructors and I emailed back and forth so I could complete my assignments. My best friend, Simione, also a student at UT Martin, was there every day, even spending nights and weekends by my side.

My second year there, I started having a lot of crisis due to stress. After my sophomore year I moved back to Memphis to be closer to my family and my doctors. I was two hours away. At home, I continued school at the University of Memphis. Between my sophomore and junior year I became pregnant with twins and was never sick. It's like it (Sickle Cell) disappeared once again. After the birth of my twins and starting a new job, I started having crisis again, this time almost every month. When I have a crisis I start hurting really bad, with sharp stabbing pains on different parts of my body. I started taking prescription pain medicine to stay out of the hospital.

So, I thought if I got pregnant again, I wouldn't be sick anymore. So, when the twins were two, I had my third child. But, the plan backfired. Not knowing I would have a stroke before I was able to deliver my baby. It was a death sentence. My doctors had always told me that if you get pregnant with Sickle Cell, "you will die." I guess my blood cells are not healthy enough for me, and definitely not a baby. Taking the pain medicine during pregnancy was also a health risk for the child, so my doctors had to reduce my medication prescription.

December 3rd, at the age of 23 and only one semester away from my college graduation, I dropped the twins off at pre-school and drove to school to student teach. I arrived early that day because we had a meeting on seizures and how to administer CPR. (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) Before the meeting started, the school nurse started CPR on me immediately and used the defibulator. She called 911 because I had no pulse. She continued CPR because she noticed I was pregnant and the baby needed to continue to get blood.

I was rushed to two hospitals, because the first was not equipped to handle all that I had to deal with. They did an emergency c-section. At the time, I was 26 weeks pregnant and my baby weighed only 3 pounds. They put me on life support, but he (my baby) started having seizures. I was in a coma, on life support for 22 days. I came out of the coma on Christmas Day. I could smell, talk and hear, but lost my sense of sight. I was completely blind. I did not know what happened to me. I lost a whole year of memory. I did not remember being pregnant at all. My mom was there when I woke up and she told me I had a seizure and a baby. I didn't know what to think. I was in and out of it (consciousness) for weeks.

Soon after, I started rehab, and started walking again, I was told I would never be able to see again. I went into a deep depression and refused all treatment. After a few days, I was sedated and put back into ICU (Intensive Care Unit) as I began having seizures again. My mom told me that they (the doctors) wanted to give up on me from the beginning and that I should not give up on myself now. This made me strengthen up and continue my rehab. My mom and sister came to the hospital everyday and prayed with me. I soon started seeing colors and get feeling back in my hand. On February 21st, I came home, 8 days after my 24th birthday. I graduated from college in August of 2014 with my family and children there. My son is now two-years- old. He has a tracheotomy, and still has difficulty swallowing. He receives 24-hour nursing care.

Looking back, if I could do anything different, I would be more conscience of my health. I didn't believe I had Sickle Cell disease when I went off to college because I was never sick. I think I would have slowed down from putting my body through so much. Through it all, I encourage youth to take their health seriously and make it a priority. Strive to do your best, but be aware you have an illness that you have to take care of as well.

I now faithfully talk to patients about my experience when I am at my doctor's office so they won't have to go through what I went through. Most of the girls I have talked to are about 18 or 19 years old. A lot of them cry when I tell them everything that happened to me. My doctor said they are making changes so they won't have to put their families through what I put my family through.

To help raise awareness of Sickle Cell Anemia and in honor of National Sickle Cell Awareness month in October, Jessica's entire family walked in the Mark Walden Sickle Cell Walk in downtown Memphis at Auto Zone Park.