Shortly after D’Avalon was born, his family learned he had sickle cell disease, an inherited blood disorder that affects red blood cells. The disease spurred pain crises that put D’Avalon in the local hospital on an almost monthly basis. He received regular blood transfusions, but these took a toll on his little body. When D’Avalon was 4 years old, his doctor referred him to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for his continuing care.
St. Jude is a national leader in the treatment of sickle cell disease, which affects 1 in 365 African-Americans and some people of Hispanic, Mediterranean and Native American descent. The St. Jude sickle cell program is one of the largest in the nation, with expansion plans including a new long-term follow-up program to better understand how the disease progresses and discover new ways to prevent its complications.
At St. Jude, D’Avalon started a drug called hydroxyurea, which cut down on hospitalizations and eased other symptoms. This treatment enabled D’Avalon to start living a more normal life.
“He wanted to go outside more,” Dana said. “We were able to start doing more. We were free from being at the hospital so much.”
St. Jude patient D'Avalon (left) performs with his brother, Kyle.
I came to St. Jude because of something negative, but so much positive has come from it. St. Jude is more than a hospital. It’s a place to grow up.
Sickle cell disease is chronic, and while D’Avalon’s symptoms have been greatly reduced, he still suffers effects. But he also has a future. A talented musician and singer, D’Avalon, who is a rising college sophomore, is considering a career as a music producer.
“I came to St. Jude because of something negative, but so much positive has come from it,” D’Avalon said. “St. Jude is more than a hospital. It’s a place to grow up.”