When registered nurse Tyrah Hickman cares for sickle-cell patients at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, she can feel the agony of the pain crises that accompany the blood disease.
Hickman has been there before. Diagnosed with sickle cell anemia at birth, the Clinton resident spent her childhood battling the disease, sometimes as a patient at UMMC's Batson Children's Hospital. “But as I grew up, I learned more about how my body handles it. I can manage a pain crisis now,” said Hickman, who received her bachelor of science in nursing from Mississippi University for Women.
At age 26, she's a beacon of hope for her patients in the Medical Center's sickle cell day clinic, which operates weekdays from 8-4:30 p.m. “Most are excited and happy to know there is someone here who can honestly relate to what they're going through,” she said.
Hickman teams with nurse practitioner Shundra Wilson to staff the clinic that reopened May 18 in refurbished fifth-floor quarters on the UMMC campus. The eight-bed clinic temporarily closed in its former location in August 2015 as the hospital began the process of finding and staffing a larger space with room to grow.
For Clinton resident Scott Mellon, a trip to Universal Studios in Florida is a chance to make some cherished memories with his family.
Recently, UMMC staff and Dream Foundation representatives joined Mellon to celebrate one of his wishes: a vacation with family.
Mellon is battling recurrent colon cancer. “I was diagnosed in 2007 and cancer free until 2013,” Scott he said. His sister, Allison Mellon, a missionary in Cambodia, found the Dream Foundation, a group that grants wishes to terminally ill adult patients and nominated her brother for a wish fulfillment.
Scott's wish? A trip to Universal Studios. Dream is providing travel, hotel and tickets for Scott and one family member. His parents, his sisters, Allison and Lisa Maddox, and brother, Drew Mellon, and their families will join him for a two-week tour of the Orlando theme park.
Allison is bringing her four young adopted children. “She thought this might be the only time I'd get to see them,” Scott said. Laughing, he added, “The youngest will turn 2 on the flight over here.”
Genentech, a drug company and Dream partner, is providing some spending money, chocolate for the trip, and a motorized scooter for Scott's use at the park. “They're all going to want to ride in that scooter,” Scott said of his nieces and nephews.
When Brannon Myrick's first child was born, he felt that something was not exactly “typical.” Although the delivery was uneventful, the doctors and nurses whisked little Leighton Olivia away, leaving Myrick torn between making sure his wife, Lisa, was okay and checking on his new daughter.
Myrick had spent the first few years of his career as a nurse, but he wasn't prepared for the diagnosis of Down syndrome. He and his wife were not quite 30 years old, making the risk of having a child with Down syndrome less than one in 1,000, according to the March of Dimes.
“The hardest thing is that [the doctor] walked in and just said it in front of all the family and friends in the room,” said Myrick. “When you look around at your parents and all the people you've looked to for security and see in their eyes the same fear you are feeling, you know it's you and you alone to deal with it.”
Myrick said that when facing unexpected circumstances in life, a person can “fold in and run or say this is what you've got and get out there,” living life to the fullest despite the difficulties.
“And that's what we did,” said Myrick. “We've done it ever since.”
The first step was to move back home. Myrick had changed careers from nursing to construction manager of multi-million dollar projects and was managing a military construction project at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Being a construction manager meant moving frequently to where the jobs were located. He knew that another career change was in his future.
“We knew we needed the support of family,” said Myrick. “We realized early intervention is a big thing, which is one of the main reasons you want a home base. You can't just go moving all around and having to re-establish those services.”
He and his wife moved back to Mississippi and started Leighton on multiple therapies, including physical and occupational therapy, so that she could meet her developmental milestones. It was during one of Leighton's therapy visits that Myrick was inspired to consider dentistry as his new career.
Years ago, when Sarah Ali's grade-school class in Hattiesburg was studying Egypt, her mom fed the students traditional Middle Eastern dishes to get them in the mood.
Each course was unlike anything most of the students had ever seen; but, all the same, there was something familiar and reassuring about them.
There was baklava, a nut-filled dessert sweetened with sugar and syrup (pecan pie that flakes?); grape leaves, a mess of tasty greens (collards' cousin?), and kofta, ground meat with red sauce (hooray for meat balls!).
Each was exotic, yet relatable at the same time - which is a pretty good description of the student whose mom prepared them: From her first day in elementary school until her last day in medical school, Sarah Ali always stood out while fitting in.
A number of interesting events is scheduled for upcoming weeks at the Medical Center.
The Medical Center is proud to announce the following addition to its faculty and leadership staff.