This high school senior is looking ahead, and her sickle cell disease won't hold her back.
True
Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

At first blush, LaTia Bell is just like any other high school senior.

She likes school, especially science, and keeps her grades up with college applications just around the corner. She just started playing tennis, and in her free time, she likes to read books and learn about sharks — her favorite animal. Like most other students in the U.S., the pressure is on to keep up, stand out, and excel as competition to gain college admission continues to grow more fierce.

What you can't see is that LaTia, despite all of her work ethic and enthusiasm, is chronically fatigued all the time.


When it's cold — and even sometimes when it's not — her entire body is wracked with pain. She misses weeks of school at a time in the hospital. Even though she strives to be like any other girl, LaTia's sickle cell disease prevents that from being possible.

All photos courtesy of LaTia Bell, used with permission.

Sickle cell disease is a blood disorder that can, to put it bluntly, make life hellish.

“It seems I always get sick around the most important dates,” LaTia says, talking about her sickle cell disease like it’s a mischievous imp rather than a painful and difficult disease. “Usually when I’m sick, I miss at least three days of school. So it is really hard.”

Sickle cell disease is a genetic disorder that prevents a person’s red blood cells from becoming flexible, round, and healthy. Instead, they become rigid and crescent-shaped, unable to carry the amount of oxygen the body needs and dying off much faster than healthy blood cells do.

The result is that chronic fatigue LaTia is constantly faced with, along with other symptoms like intense, frequent pain resulting from a lack of oxygen being delivered to key body parts, causing muscles to seize up. People young and old living with sickle cell disease are also susceptible to strokes and infections and have to take medications that can take even more of a toll on the body.

The symptoms of sickle cell disease make even mundane tasks feel like impossible feats. Last year, LaTia missed weeks of school and more than a few tennis competitions because of her sickle cell crises.

But as a patient at the Aflac Center and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, where many young people are taught to manage their sickle cell disease, LaTia has been taught to manage her symptoms. It also helps that she has a lot of optimism and drive to do what she loves.

"I don’t really let it hold me back from my dreams and what I love to do," says LaTia.

In spite of the challenges her disease causes, she has her heart set on studying biochemistry in college — knowing full well that stress is one of the primary factors that can trigger her disease and send her to the hospital.

Regardless, she's choosing to aim high. “I want to be a hematologist and a marine biologist,” she says. "I expect it to be very stressful, but I’m just ready to take it on."

LaTia also hopes that she can use her passion for learning and knowledge to someday help other people like her.

There's no cure for sickle cell disease — only developments in pain treatment that can make the disease easier to manage. But she wants to help find a cure.

"Sickle cell doesn't only affect the patients. It affects the families too," she says. "No one in the family likes to see a child suffering from such a terrible disease."

"I'm doing it for the patients and for the families."

Though her disease is beyond her control, so far, LaTia has been able to do everything she wants — it's just more of a challenge.

Supported by the Aflac Center and Blood Disorders Center, with compassionate care and patient education and counseling, she has been able to chase her dreams with confidence.

Heading into her future, she's confident in her ability to keep on accomplishing. "I feel invincible," she says.

Ultimately, she hopes that finding a cure is within her reach. "I do a lot of spreading awareness through social media and things," she says. "I want people to be aware of sickle cell and maybe help make a change."

One thing she's certain of is that she'll be one of the people helping make that change, regardless of the obstacles in her way. "Sickle cell has made me feel down a lot, but you can overcome anything," she says. "That's what I've learned — that anything can be overcome."

To learn more about sickle cell disease or the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, visit choa.org/fightsicklecell.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
True

Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

Keep Reading Show less

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.