Angel Ervin’s Family
Diagnosed with sickle cell disease at birth, Angel Ervin was born a fighter.
Though it wasn’t until high school when Angel began to develop symptoms from her condition, the support she received when she was first diagnosed would prove to remain just as powerful in her journey to come.
“Growing up, I would visit Lurie Children’s for checkups to monitor my condition, but I didn’t have any problems or pain until I got into high school,” Angel said.
Brenda, Angel’s mom, knew what symptoms to watch for in Angel – her son and Angel’s older brother also has sickle cell disease.
“His symptoms manifested earlier in his life, so I automatically knew something was not right when Angel first became sick,” Brenda said.
When Angel was 15, she developed severe acute chest syndrome. Upon being admitted to the hospital for 14 days without a diagnosis, she was quickly rushed to the pediatric ICU when doctors discovered the pneumonia-like illness infiltrating her lungs.
“After my hemaphersis (blood exchange), I was on 16 liters of oxygen when I was in the ICU,” Angel recalled. “I remember doctors said I would’ve been intubated if I didn’t get better when I did.”
Angel would spend her 16th birthday in the hospital with her mom by her side, as well as the unwavering support from the staff at Lurie Children’s. She was discharged after a month-long stay, though her battle didn’t end there.
“You never know when symptoms will arise,” Angel noted. “Between frequent hospital visits, class, cheerleading and my extra electives, it was hard to juggle it all. I was very involved at school, but sickle cell pain crises would creep up on me and disrupt my plans.”
After three years of hospital visits and appointments, Angel finally qualified to enroll in a medical research trial, enabling her to begin her journey of receiving a stem cell transplant. Over the course of four months, Angel underwent the process of the collection of cells that would then be modified and eventually reintroduced back into her body to then produce healthy blood cells.
December 7, 2022 marked the day of Angel’s transplant and a hopeful start to a new beginning. Angel was discharged from the hospital on January 6, 2023, and she and her mom are now staying at Ronald McDonald House until Angel can make an official return home.
Though it’s a long road to recovery, Angel and her mom are optimistic and grateful for the support of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana during this critical phase of care. Being near the hospital enables Angel and her mom to easily go for bloodwork and tests, and if there are any complications during this phase, Angel can quickly receive the medical care she needs.
On a personal level, Angel is loving the delicious, home-cooked meals the volunteers prepare at Ronald McDonald House. Additionally, she is appreciative of having quiet time on her own to read, rest, or watch TV without all the equipment and necessary noise that is the backdrop of a hospital environment.
Despite the challenges set before her, Angel graduated from high school during her journey to recovery and is currently working toward her childhood dream of becoming a nurse practitioner. She hopes to bring into her role an understanding of empathy and appreciation for what patients of all ages face during their medical battles.
“She’s been so determined to become a nurse since she was three years old,” Brenda stated. “I’ll never forget when her hematologist at the time asked what she wanted to be when she grows up. He asked, ‘Don’t you want to be a doctor?’ And she said, ‘No I want to be a nurse. I want to help people in their time of need.'”
Shortly after publishing her story, Angel and her mom got the ‘ok’ to return to their home in Southern Illinois. We look forward to being able to call her ‘Nurse Angel’ soon.