FAMU Student Battles Sickle Cell

by Julie Montanaro
September 8, 5:30pm

Sickle Cell disease affects hundreds, possibly thousands, of people in the Big Bend. It's Sickle Cell Awareness Month and we want to introduce you to a young lady in Tallahassee determined to live her life in spite of it.

You'd never know anything was wrong with Denise Johnson. The vibrant 21-year-old performs with the African Caribbean Dance Theater and has a smile a mile wide, but behind the scenes Johnson battles Sickle Cell Anemia.

“It causes your joints to lock up, and if you try to straighten your arm out or something, you can't straighten it out without all that pain," Johnson said. "It hurts, you just don't want to be touched. You want to sit there and you don't want to do anything."

Denise has endured countless blood transfusions, a stroke, and winds up in the hospital in Sickle Cell crisis about once a month. Despite that, the FAMU public relations major is determined to do whatever it takes to keep living her life.
"Some days I don't feel well. I'm on the cane. I'm in the wheelchair. I'm still in your class and they're like, why don't you go home? I will not. I'm not a quitter. I will not give up," she said.

Denise recently won the local Sickle Cell Foundation's courage award, an award she keeps close by when sickle cell seems to be winning.

"I'm still alive, see what I'm saying, I have a life too; it's just a life with limitations."

The Sickle Cell Foundation is hosting its annual 5k Walk/Run Saturday morning at 8:30 at the Jake Gaither Community Center. Denise says she'll be there. She won't be running, but she'll be there.