Lawyer, sickle cell patient, COVID-19 survivor
Her story: Natalie Jean-Baptiste, 42, has lived with sickle cell disease her entire life and has forged a successful career as a bankruptcy lawyer specializing in student loan debt. While recovering in March from hip-replacement surgery—the result of a long-term complication from her sickle cell disease—Jean-Baptiste also experienced a severe pain crisis that required multiple hospitalizations. A short time afterwards, she contracted COVID-19. She could not smell or taste anything. She developed a fever. She struggled to breathe. As her condition grew worse, doctors placed her on a ventilator, where she remained for two weeks.
“I never imagined I would get COVID,” Jean-Baptiste recalls. “I had been sick before with sickle cell, but this is the first time I was afraid I might not make it.” Months after being discharged from the hospital, Jean-Baptiste is now recovering at home with the aid of oxygen, oral steroids, and physical therapy.
Biggest challenge: “Having both COVID and sickle cell disease made me the sickest I’d ever been in my life. It’s a miracle that I made it.”
How she stays inspired: “The love of my friends and family motivates me and keeps me going. Also, I find joy and purpose in practicing law and providing debt relief to student loan borrowers.”
Her dream: “I would like the sickle cell community, including caregivers and advocates, to consider more holistic and natural ways to help manage symptoms along with traditional drugs. I think they are often overlooked, but it’s important to use diet and lifestyle changes to manage this disease.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that having sickle cell disease increases your risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19.