Davinia Caballero was diagnosed with sickle cell disease at the age of four, and it’s been a tough journey for her ever since.
Davinia explains: “Growing up, nobody, not even the doctors knew much about sickle cell disease and because of that, I remember feeling different and isolated. So, my way to deal with it was to hide my condition as best I could and not talk about it openly." Davinia experienced many episodes of sickle cell crisis when she was younger, and as a result missed quite a lot of school. She explains:
“A sickle cell crisis is the worst pain you can imagine, especially if the crisis is in your lungs as you cannot get your breath and you feel as though someone is stabbing you. Over-the-counter painkillers really only take the edge off it.”
She says that as she got older, she learned how making adjustments to her lifestyle could help to minimise the effects of the condition.
“I realised over the years that eating the right foods, staying hydrated and exercise help ease the effects of sickle cell.”
In 2012, when she was 28 years old, Davinia's kidney function dropped to 55% because of her sickle cell condition. She recalls: “I had many blood transfusions whilst I was on dialysis. And, after a transfusion, I'd feel truly amazing, so much more energised and clearer in my mind."
Davinia wants people to understand that being a sickle cell sufferer isn’t just about living with the condition and alleviating pain, or treating a crisis episode. The condition can have many detrimental effects on an individual's health.
“In 2015, my sickle cell caused a blood leak in my right eye which left scarring that pulled the retina away from my eye and left me blind for two weeks. And as well as that - in 2016, I experienced kidney failure due to my sickle cell. Thankfully, in July of 2017 my brother, David Caballero donated one of his kidneys to me and I am currently recovering from the transplant operation. Davinia closes by saying: “The good thing that has come from having to live with sickle cell is how I am able to value life." She continues:
"I can’t thank enough all blood donors for donating blood. It is such a selfless act and has given me, a stranger, the chance to live a normal life.”
“And as exercise, nutrition and mental wellbeing are so important in the treatment of Sickle Cell disease, I am now training to be a holistic health therapist, so I can help people like myself who are living with the sickle cell condition.”