His Doctors’ Dream Gave Julius Means Something To Sing About.

Treatment for Sickle Cell Brings Hope and a Cure to Chicago Area Patients

Sickle Cell Doctors Members of the Julius's "Dream Team": Victor Gordeuk, MD, Director of the Sickle Cell Center and Saraf Santosh, MD & Johara Hassan, MD

It's a disease that restricts blood cells' ability to carry oxygen and causes unimaginable pain. Unfortunately, the hospital and pain weren't anything new; I'm only 24 but I'd had more episodes than I could count since I was diagnosed when I was only eight months old.

It was hard, living with sickle cell. I missed out on a lot. But I always made the best of it. Sickle cell made me more determined to be like anyone else. I couldn't play football so I played soccer. I learned to write and play music. I missed school when I was sick but I still kept my grades up because my dream is to be a judge.

We were willing to roll the dice.

When my brother Desmond came to see me in the hospital, my doctor could see from his yellowed skin that I wasn't the only one in the family sick with sickle cell disease. She told us we might be candidates for a stem cell transplant. It was a clinical trial and Dr. Rondelli and the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System Blood and Marrow Transplant Program was the first program in the Midwest to perform it. They'd done it on only one other person but the healthy stem cells had changed her life: the sickle cells were gone.

Our stem cell donor had to be a sibling and a perfect match. Lucky for us, our brother Clifford didn't have sickle cell; even luckier, he was a match. Rolling the dice paid off: the sickle cells are gone. Dr. Rondelli, Dr. Saraf, the nurses - I call them the Dream Team. They moved mountains out of my way. Their dream of a stem cell transplant for people with sickle cell is my reality. Now nothing is holding me back - from law school, from making my music - my path is clear. I'm ready to fly.