Local News

Woman Fights Through Sickle Cell Anemia To Graduate From Nursing School

Posted May 20, 2005 1:39 a.m. EDT

— Nursing school is difficult and can be stressful for any student, but imagine studying, going to class and suffering a debilitating blood disorder like sickle cell anemia. A young Durham woman did just that and her illness almost caused her to miss graduation.

Tiwanda Young is not a stranger at UNC Hospitals.

"I'm frequent in that the nurses tend to know when I come. They tend to know me, 'Hi Tiwanda, how are you doing?'" she said.

Young suffered a pain episode from sickle cell anemia -- a genetic disorder, most common among African-Americans. Red blood cells become rigid and sickle shaped. They clot easily and wear out prematurely, robbing the blood of oxygen.

"Therefore, you're not getting oxygen and nutrients to a certain part of your body," Young said.

Over four years, she fought through pain and fatigue to finish nursing school at UNC-Greensboro. She was not sure if her doctor would let her out of the hospital to attend graduation. Luckily, she was able to make it.

"It's been a long hard struggle," he said. "It's amazing. I can't even believe I've gotten this far."

Clementine Buford, Tiwanda's mother, said her daughter worked too hard to miss her special day.

"My heart just go out to her because she has really, really committed herself to being able to help others, and to become a nurse and to see her walk across that stage would mean all the world to her and I know to me," she said.

Young said she would love to use her degree to work in pediatrics and help children. Her instructors said that would be a perfect fit.

"We teach students to help children with chronic diseases achieve their highest, and so this is such a good example of that," said nursing instructor Debbie Hancock.

Bone marrow transplants can be a cure for some sickle cell patients. Many depend on medications and support to live near normal lives.