Tevin Coleman—a running back for the San Francisco 49ers—and his wife, Akilah Coleman, are opening up about their experience with raising a child who has sickle cell disease.
Tevin & Akilah’s Daughter, Nazaneen, Was Diagnosed As An Infant: ‘I Knew Something Was Up’
However, they knew “pretty instantly” that “something was up.” By the time she was four months old, Nazaneen was diagnosed with sickle cell disease.
“I knew something was up. My son, they knew he didn’t have it but pretty instantly, with my daughter, we had to go back and do a couple of different tests because they knew that there was something going on. It was confirmed around four months.”
What Exactly Is Sickle Cell Disease?
For context, the condition described “a group of inherited red blood cell disorders” that causes the cells to be sickle-shaped as opposed to their usual, disk-like appearance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the red blood cells being sickle-shaped can lead to a variety of issues within the body.
“The sickle cells die early, which causes a constant shortage of red blood cells. Also, when they travel through small blood vessels, they get stuck and clog the blood flow. This can cause pain and other serious complications (health problems) such as infection, acute chest syndrome and stroke.”
There are various types of the disease, with “the most severe form” of the genetic condition commonly being called sickle cell anemia.
Increased awareness of sickle cell will help drive funding for research, treatment and care. Spread the word on social media and let your friends and family know. For further information, visit our website link in the bio #sicklecelluk #sicklecell #awareness #photooftheday pic.twitter.com/hJEnqkfdKj
— Sickle Cell Society (@SickleCellUK) January 10, 2023
The Colemans Want To ‘Talk About It & Just Raise Awareness’
Tevin and Akilah noted that—while they were aware that they carried the sickle cell gene, they weren’t fully aware of how the condition would affect their family.
They also noted that, as their daughter continues to become more aware of her condition, they want to focus on promoting education about sickle cell disease while teaching Nazaneen to be open about how she’s feeling.
“She’s only 5, so we haven’t gotten to the point where I actually explained to her what her body is going through, but I have let her know that it’s just really important to always tell Mommy—whatever you’re feeling, whatever you’re going through, tell Mommy. Let’s talk about it. Don’t be scared to tell me if you’re in pain, so I can help you.”
Tevin added, “Now that she’s getting older and she’s learning and understanding that she has sickle cell, I wanted to talk about it and just raise awareness.”
How The Family Uplifts Nazaneen Through Some Of The Condition’s Challenges
Additionally, the Colemans addressed some of the different ways they’ve had to adapt for the sake of their daughter.
For one, they don’t allow her to go outside if it’s too cold, as it’s important for people with sickle cell disease to stay warm.
“For my daughter, she does not go outside at school if it’s below 50 degrees. I have to keep her really warm, and when she comes home from school, I have to check her fingers and her toes. I have to ask her if she has any aches or if anything hurts, or if she’s having any pains. And she has been having pains actually, she’s been having some pains in her legs and her feet.”
Being cold increases your chances of having a Sickle Cell crisis, so it's essential to keep warm as much as possible. With the weather falling to -10 around the UK, our community must stay warm during these challenging times. #sickle #sicklecellsociety #nhs #cold #weather #5ways pic.twitter.com/n9AuPQqDpT
— Sickle Cell Society (@SickleCellUK) January 23, 2023
However, they’re sure to try to make it fun by “disguising a lot of what [they] do for her as self-care.”
“I’ll just say, ‘Okay, we’re gonna have a spa day.’ I’ll massage her legs and do a mani-pedi, kind of rub her feet and get some of that circulation going because the one thing I don’t want to do is put too much fear in her.”
Akilah added, “I want her to be able to identify what she’s feeling, but I also want to protect her…I want her to be able to vocalize what she’s feeling without being scared.”
As for Tevin, he notes that a big part of their journey is rooted in keeping the positivity rollin’.
“Every time that my daughter does have a crisis or she is in the hospital afterward, we try to uplift her and keep positive vibes. We do it by throwing a party for her when she gets back, giving her a cake, giving her toys, just to make her smile.”
Shoutout to the Coleman family as they continue to navigate these waters and raise awareness about their daughter’s condition.