“Mya was a preemie,” Susie said. “She weighed two pounds when she was born and was in the NICU for several months. As soon as we learned she had sickle cell disease, she became a St. Jude patient.”
St. Jude is taking a major step in building its sickle cell program by expanding the research focus beyond treating symptoms to seeking a cure. St. Jude has one of the largest pediatric sickle cell disease programs in the country, where 850-900 patients are treated annually.
Each year, a St. Jude patient who is the child of a FedEx employee is chosen to have a plane named after them.
Since 1986, FedEx has donated nearly $38 million for St. Jude kids, and been a steadfast partner through the FedEx St. Jude Classic® (FESJC), which has featured golf legends such as Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Gary Player, Fred Couples, Greg Norman, Lee Westwood and Dustin Johnson.
When Mya learned FedEx was naming the Purple Eagle plane for her, which is displayed at this June’s FedEx St. Jude Classic, her reaction was priceless.
"Mya said, ‘Nana, does that mean I can go anywhere I want, whenever I want?’" Susie said. "And I said, 'Well, it’s not that kind of plane.' We laughed. She’s ecstatic. The whole family is. It’s such an honor."
Mya had surgery to remove her spleen when she was 3 years old, and she has been hospitalized for pain crises. She takes two different drugs, penicillin and hydroxyurea, daily, and visits St. Jude for monthly checkups.
“Mya is starting to understand sickle cell disease,” Susie said. “She’s beginning to realize the signs of a pain crisis, and she’s learning what she can do to help herself. Her nurses are great, always letting her know what they’re doing. St. Jude has been great about educating Mya and our whole family.”