When kids at school ask Cordell Anthony Betts why his eyes are yellow, he typically responds with a funny one-liner. “Sometimes I tell them I accidentally put food coloring in my eyes,” he explains with a grin. “Once I told a kid that my eyes actually glow in the dark!” At this point in his life, 18-year-old Cordell prefers telling jokes to explaining to curious friends and classmates the long, difficult truth of sickle cell disease.
Diagnosed as an infant, Cordell has coped with sickle cell disease his entire life, so he knows more about the subject than he cares to admit. Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that causes oxygen-carrying red blood cells to become hard and sickle-shaped. As a result, blood vessels are blocked and the body is deprived of oxygen, causing episodes of pain, delayed growth, organ and tissue damage, infection – even stroke.
In the summer of 2003, 16-year-old Cordell and his mother were en route to Children’s Medical Center of Dallas for a routine checkup when Cordell began feeling “not quite right.” By the time they reached the hospital, he was unable to walk. Cordell was having a stroke. Almost 11 percent of children living with sickle cell disease will experience a stroke before the age of 20. These strokes can be debilitating – and sometimes fatal.
Fortunately, Cordell was in the right place to have a stroke. He was able to receive immediate medical attention, and although the stroke left him temporarily in a wheelchair, he responded well to initial treatments and timely blood transfusions helped reduce the stroke’s residual physical effects.
According to Cordell, his mom is the hero. She’s the one who drives him to doctor’s appointments and reminds him to take his medicine. She’s also the one who sees behind her son’s constant smile and recognizes his private moments of struggle. According to Brenda, it’s the struggle that makes him strong. “Cordell has always had to work twice as hard to catch up and keep up,” she explains. “But I think all his hard work has inspired so many people around him.”
When you donate blood you’re helping families like Cordell. Schedule your donation today at CarterBloodCare.org.