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Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Black Woman With Sickle Cell Disease Defies Odds, Turns 80 Years Old

Patricia McGill

Nationwide — Meet Patricia McGill, an African American woman from Houston, Texas, who recently celebrated her 80th birthday despite living with sickle cell disease. She is one of the oldest people with this condition, which affects Black people disproportionately.

Diagnosed at the age of 13, McGill surpassed the average life expectancy for someone with sickle cell disease, which is around 52 years. Reflecting on her journey, McGill recalled it all started with frequent and severe illnesses that set her apart from her siblings.

Despite the obstacles, McGill pursued her dreams. In the 1970s, she enrolled at Hampton University, an HBCU in Virginia, to study education. With determination to overcome distance and health challenges, she achieved her goal of becoming a teacher.

Her career spanned 37 years, where she dedicated herself to students with learning disabilities, a cause close to her heart due to her own challenges with orthographic dyslexia.

“I knew there were others like us who needed support and understanding,” McGill told NBC News. “I always made it a point to show them that they were not alone and that they could overcome their challenges.”

McGill, who also became a mother of 3, credits her longevity to her faith, family support, and proactive health practices, such as staying well-hydrated and maintaining a nutritious diet.

Beyond managing her own health, McGill is a vocal advocate for those with sickle cell disease, encouraging openness and raising awareness about the condition. Her recent 80th birthday party doubled as a fundraiser for the Sickle Cell Association of Texas Marc Thomas Foundation, raising $16,000 to support affected children and families.

“The theme of my birthday party was ‘It’s Possible,'” McGill said. “I wanted to show others that it is possible to live a full and rich life despite having sickle cell disease.”

Looking ahead, McGill remains hopeful about advancements in sickle cell treatments, including recent FDA approvals for gene therapies. She believes in advocating for equitable access to these treatments, hopeful that they will improve the lives of future generations affected by this condition.