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Sickle cell disease
Meah and Carson Simpson

Meah and Carson Simpson bicker as siblings, but they’re each other’s cheerleader and protector through thick and thin.

Meah, born in 2005 with sickle cell disease, is a gentle soul with a fighter’s spirit. At age 6 months, she developed pneumonia, which led to the first of many bouts of acute chest syndrome, a lung-related complication of sickle cell disease. When Meah was 2, she fell into an eight-day coma and developed pneumococcal sepsis – a contributor to increased morbidity and mortality in patients with sickle cell disease. Doctors prepared Meah’s mother, Marsha, for the worst.

“She wasn’t expected to survive,” Marsha said as tears began to form in her eyes. “And so we prayed.”

The family’s prayers were answered when Meah came out of the coma and made a remarkable recovery. Her story remains an inspirational reminder among the staff at the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders outpatient clinic at Children’s of Alabama, where 12-year-old Meah and 10-year-old Carson, who is sickle cell dormant, have their regular six-month checkups.

“Her doctors and nurses consider her a miracle,” Marsha said of Meah. “She’s beyond her years in wisdom because she’s taken on so much, she’s overcome so much … God is good.”

Meah’s doctor, Thomas Howard, M.D., recalls the severity of Meah’s condition when she was transported to Children’s by helicopter. The tips of her fingers and toes were turning black – a sign of tissue death when blood circulation is blocked. Howard said improved access to care through the Alabama Network for Sickle Cell Care, Access, Prevention and Education (ANSCAPE) helped save Meah’s life. Children’s and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), along with three community-based organizations and three federally qualified health centers, work to offer timely and appropriate primary and specialty care to sickle cell patients.

Meah’s case was well documented by the network, Howard said, allowing her care team to quickly identify ailments and provide life-saving treatment. “Meah receives the most up-to-date preventive treatment,” Howard said. “She was what we call a near miss for death, but she made it through.”

Marsha added, “We couldn’t have made it through our journey without Children’s. I had friends suggest we go elsewhere, but I was adamant about being here because Children’s has never failed us.”

Meah continues to make it through as she prepares to enter the seventh grade and spends time with her best friends, known in her neighborhood as the “The Fab Five.”

“She is the total opposite of her mother,” Marsha said, laughing. “She loves arts and crafts, she loves pinks and purples and girly stuff. And she doesn’t like to get dirty.”

As for Carson, a gamer who loves Minecraft, he will continue to be monitored for sickle cell symptoms. Carson is the rock of the family, displaying strength beyond his years. “He’s always been the man of our family,” Marsha said. “He loves to make people laugh and he loves to ask questions; he wants to know everything.

“They both had to grow up fast and they’re very protective of each other,” Marsha said. “They are complete opposites in personality, but at the end of the day, they come together.”

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