Jaheim Smith's Story

Years of Hospital Visits Turn Strangers into Friends

Living with Sickle Cell

Jaheim Smith has been in and out of hospitals his whole life. He was born with sickle cell disease—an inherited disorder that affects the shape of red blood cells. This abnormality affects the immune system and can lead to serious infections, chronic anemia and damage to vital organs. Now 8 years old and with more than 60 hospital visits under his belt, admission to the hospital is nothing new, but nerves still get to him sometimes.

The staff at Golisano Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida helps him cope with his emotions.

From Caregivers to Friends

"Jaheim loves his doctors and nurses," says Hudi Smith, Jaheim's mother. "He has been coming to The Children's Hospital since he was 3 years old, so they are his friends. They work so well together to help him relax. Their compassion and kindness helps me relax, too. I know he is in capable hands."

Hudi says that child life specialist Stacie Margaritis provides Jaheim with personal care. Her job is to help patients and families understand medical procedures and manage their stress. For Jaheim, she is a great distraction.

"Ms. Stacie does whatever it takes to help Jaheim," Hudi explains. "She holds his hand when he is scared; she blows bubbles with him to distract him. She is there whenever he needs her. He really loves her."

In July 2010, Jaheim underwent two weeks of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant at another children's hospital in Florida.

Always There to Help

On Oct. 22, 2010, Jaheim's doctors at The Children's Hospital removed a central line that had been attached to his chest for his bone marrow transplant—a huge step in his recovery.

Though he is not able to go to school or play outside yet, Jaheim has a lot to look forward to as his immune system strengthens. Hudi knows that if Jaheim has to go to the hospital again, he will be fine because his friends are there to help.

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