“I became a blood donor ambassador because I have sickle cell disease and I am not able to donate blood. I wanted to figure out a way that I could give back and help with something that has changed my life.”
Ashley Flowers was 17 years old when she was diagnosed with sickle cell disease.
Sickle Cell disease is the most common genetic disease in the U.S., affecting about 100,000 people—primarily Black or African Americans. The disease causes red blood cells to be stiff and sickle shaped, sometimes blocking small blood vessels as they carry oxygen throughout the body and producing symptoms including extreme pain, acute anemia, tissue and organ damage, and even strokes.
Most people are diagnosed with sickle cell disease at birth or as a child, but Ashley spent her childhood suffering from sickle cell disease without an explanation.
“Everything that makes being a kid fun, I lost out on, and didn’t understand why,” she shared. “Things that people take for granted every day I missed out on, and as an adult cannot do. Simple things, like I can never go outside and build a snowman with my kid or have a snowball fight without risking going into a sickle cell crisis.”
An ob-gyn diagnosed Ashley with sickle cell disease. Ashley was pregnant with her daughter when test results revealed her sickle cell status. She was rushed to the hospital to receive her first blood transfusion.
Ashley’s life changed drastically from there. Every six weeks, she would find herself in the hospital in another crisis and in need of blood. She has had over 100 blood transfusions since she was diagnosed 19 years ago.
These transfusions have truly changed her life.
Ashley was told she would not live to see 21 or 25 or 30; she will be 36 this year. She was also told she would never have children; she is the proud mom to three beautiful children.
Two of Ashley’s children inherited sickle cell disease. Her son is six and has special needs as well as sickle cell, presenting an additional challenge.
“He cannot explain, ‘Hey Mom, I’m in pain…I don’t feel good today,’ So, I have to learn and watch for signs, like being lethargic, jaundice, yellowing of eyes, and swelling of hands and feet (also referred to as Dactylitis Hand-Foot Syndrome),” said Ashley.
Ashley has not been hospitalized in a sickle cell crisis in two years. She credits blood donors for her health.
“If it wasn’t for people donating their blood and choosing to help save lives [so many things] wouldn't be possible for me. I’m able to be a better and more present mother, a better and more present wife. I’m able to be there for my family and do the things I love. I was able to start my own business, which I never thought would ever happen for me.”
Ashley wants to share an important message to blood donors, “You added value to my life, by donating blood.”
Patients battling sickle cell disease and other illnesses need your help now. Please schedule a blood donation appointment today by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Blood Donor App or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.
Watch Ashley share her story
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