Local Promotes awareness of Sickle Cell

Alexsis Mulligan, who recently underwent a double hip replacement due to Sickle Cell, hopes to spread awareness about the disease she battles on a daily basis during September's month-long proclamation.

  • Alexsis Mulligan, 25

2010 WHHS graduate, Alexsis Mulligan, 25, of Hampton, is far too young to know the pain of a double hip replacement surgery and its lingering side effects. Although she has felt tremendous anguish caused by Sickle Cell Anemia throughout her life, the courageous young woman attempts to face the challenges of each day with optimism and a sense of humor.

Diagnosed at birth with the inherited disease, which causes oxygen-carrying red blood cells to form a sickle (crescent) shape, Mulligan underwent surgery in June of 2016 to replace her right hip due to bone fractures. The fractures were caused by a condition known as avascular necrosis, which causes bones to become brittle and weak. In August of 2017, after a grueling recovery from her initial surgery, Mulligan began begging doctors to remove her left hip due to debilitating hip fractures.

The initial onset of avascular necrosis caused Mulligan to experience pain in her sides, which gradually became more intense over an extended period. Doctors at the Medical University of South Carolina ordered a battery of X-Rays and discovered, to the horror of Mulligan and her family, her hip bones had become vastly deteriorated.

“I was like ‘I’m 25 years old and I have to have a double-hip replacement surgery’,” she said of receiving word of her condition. “I called my mom and I lost it on the phone with my mom, and my grandma was holding me and trying to console me…the MIR’s looked horrible.”

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, “Sickling in the bones of the hip and less commonly the shoulder joints, knees and ankles can decrease oxygen flow and result in severe damage.” Typically, the deterioration is seen in the bones of adolescents and adult patients.

One of the most difficult aspects of the disease for Mulligan, beside excruciating pain, is being forced to stop attending accounting classes at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort, where she attended for two years before medical complications forced her to take a hiatus—but she vows she will be back to school soon. She also greatly misses holding down a career, as well. Mulligan worked for eight years at the Hampton Piggly Wiggly and for the last two years at Advance America, in Ridgeland. She praises both employers for their understanding during her illness.

She stated one of the greatest feelings is being given the opportunity to converse with others living with the disease. Although her family, friends and “Super Warrior” mother provide a tremendous amount of support, fellow patients are able to uplift each other and provide real-world solutions to problems only those affected by the disease truly understand.

Mulligan spoke of the often unseen ripple effect felt by legitimate medical patients emanating from the illegal opioid epidemic, which is plaguing the country.

The young woman says she has felt prejudices by doctors and pharmacists due to high opioid pain medicine dosages required to ease the pain of her disease. She feels because Sickle Cell Anemia is a disease seen predominantly in African-Americans, and because patients often require a high dosage of powerful pain relievers, patients are stereotyped as drug abusers or individuals that are taking advantage of prescriptions.

The illegal misuse of prescription opioids has created dilemmas for legitimate medication users. Not only has Mulligan faced backlash from pharmacists who have questioned her prescription refills, hospital doctors have ignored her physician’s ER plan and the medicines and doses listed within the directive.

Mulligan aspires to bring understanding to the disease. She said her own family struggled with understanding her disease at first due to a lack of knowledge. She stated they would not believe her when she complained about intense hip pain and felt she was over-exaggerating.

An inspirational individual and tough as nails, Mulligan will continue to remain optimistic that she will continue to overcome any obstacles she encounters. She said she looks forward to beginning a family in the future, as she described with a tear in her eye how pregnant Sickle Cell patients often experience complications during pregnancy.

Greatly appreciated financial donations can be gifted to Mulligan by logging on to www.youcaring.com/leximulligan-889587 or www.youcaring.com/alexsismulligan-889623. Donations will help offset the cost of numerous medical procedures.

 

More about Sickle Cell Awareness Month

The month of September is recognized as Sickle Cell Anemia Month. Represented by the color red, Sickle Cell Anemia take part in many campaigns to promote awareness of the disease, including wearing t-shirts and bold lipstick (for the ladies).

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, Sickle Cell Anemia is predominantly diagnosed in African-Americans, although also found vastly less frequently in other nationalities. In African-American’s, one in 365 children are born with Sickle Cell Anemia; one in 13 are born with the SS Hemoglobin (Sickle Cell) trait.  As well as bone deterioration, such as in the case of Alexis Mulligan, Sickle Cell Anemia can also cause liver, lung, eye, kidney, heart and brain complications, states the NHLB. Chronic pain is also a known side effect of the disease, as well the weakening of the spleen which causes the body to become highly susceptible to infection. 

Children with the disease often begin to show the effects of sickling cells at different times during development, but typically painful swelling of the hands and feet, fatigue and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and eyes) are indicators for doctors to perform blood testing on a child.

Patients describe pain associated with Sickle Cell Anemia “as sharp, intense, stabbing or throbbing. Severe ‘crises’ [episodes of intense pain] can be even more uncomfortable than post-surgical pain or childbirth,” states the NHLB.

Treatment for the disease includes high doses of medications, immunizations, blood and urine testing and blood transfusions. A regular regiment medical testing is often required of Sickle Cell patients. Rarely, carriers of the Sickle Cell trait, but not the disease itself, experience complications.

Blood screenings performed by physicians are crucial, especially for African-American’s, to determine whether an individual is a carrier of the Sickle Cell trait. Prenatal testing is also crucial and can be performed after the few months of pregnancy.

To learn more about Sickle Cell Anemia, log onto www.nhlbi.gov.