Meet the Coleman Clan – Nate and Demetria and their four children: Zion – 14, Zhania– 11, Zareha – 8 and Zaire – 5. They are warm, engaging and share everything together including love, support and the sickle cell trait or Sickle Cell Disease (SCD). Nate, Demetria, Zareha and Zaire carry the sickle cell trait. Zion and Zhania have active SCD. Due to complications from SCD, Zion had a heart transplant three summers ago. Six weeks later that same summer, Zhania learned a new heart was waiting for her at Cincinnati Children’s. To say recovery was difficult would be an understatement.
When Nate attended Joy’s Outdoor Education Camp in sixth grade, little did he know his future held multiple returns to Joy with his children. Zion has attended Joy’s Hematology/Oncology camp for seven years and Zhania for five. Demetria, Zion and Zhania graciously and gratefully shared how Camp Joy has impacted their lives.
Zion, a freshman at Mason High School, plays football and enjoys his sports broadcasting class. He proclaimed, “I get to see many kids with the same disease so I don’t feel left out – I see old friends – some from as far away as the Carolinas. I make new friends and it builds up my social skills. I don’t have to explain SCD or be the only one with it. The staff is awesome and the food it great – equally as good as my mom’s cooking. And I will be a counselor soon and I can’t wait to be in charge of Camp Joy one day!”
Pretty, articulate, 5th grade swimmer Zhania, effused, “Camp Joy is amazing! I love going to the pool every day! I love going to the med shed and everything is there so you don’t have to worry about your meds! I love the Golden Plunger Award for the cleanest cabin – which is always my cabin! I love choice day where we can pick what we want to do and I also love the day we make s’mores and throw in our wish sticks! I love meeting all the new kids here and some have my same disease and other diseases. The counselors are friendly and always willing to help you!”
Demetria contributed, “Camp has impacted our lives in an amazing way! I know Zion and Zhania are having fun like normal kids and their meds are taken care of. I get a break from dealing with my kids’ incidents of SCD crisis flare-ups, which can sometimes result in three-week hospitalizations to control the pain. Zion used to be shy and he has really come out of himself. Camp Joy did that. Having SCD and meeting other kids at Joy with various conditions have taught my kids compassion.”
When both parents were asked how they cope, Demetria – with a sincere smile – inquired, “Can you imagine if I stressed out over everything? I’d be older before my time! My hair would be snow white by now. Life is too short – we are going to enjoy this life while we have it – whom does it benefit to stress out?” Nate was quick to add: “We are a strong family unit. Going through everything we go through, I’m able to keep a smile on my face. I can’t afford to feel sorry for myself – someone always has it worse.” The Colemans make Pollyanna look like an amateur.