November 29, 2022
Eight-year-old Calina Jones-McKinzie has made the two-hour trip from her hometown of Gary to Riley Children’s Health in Indianapolis several times a year since she was a baby. She can barely contain her enthusiasm as she reunites with the doctors and nurses who’ve cared for her over the years. “They love me and they love every single kid in this hospital,” she says as she waits for a recent appointment. “And they love when I always do well.”
Last fall, Calina organized a fundraiser for Riley at her school, where she openly shares with others about her life with sickle cell disease. Just a week after she was born, she was diagnosed with a hereditary blood disorder that impacts about 100,000 people in the United States. “The most common complication is severe pain, which can come on quickly, unexpectedly and can be very debilitating,” says Calina’s doctor, Riley Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist Seethal Jacob, M.D.
“Calina is a joy,” says Dr. Jacob. "She is a lovely girl who has been doing really well. She has a wonderful support system through her mother and grandmother that helps her understand the importance of the medical care she gets.” Dr. Jacob says it’s important that Calina receives comprehensive sickle cell care, and that Riley’s specialized team can address not only her physical health, but her mental health as well. “She’s very knowledgeable about her disease and herself at such a young age.”
Dr. Jacob says Calina will be wonderful as a Riley Champion. “She is very passionate and enthusiastic. She’s always been such a wonderful supporter of our team and of Riley, and we’re so appreciative that she and her mom trust us with her care.”
Calina’s face lights up with a smile when asked about her new role representing Riley. “I’m looking forward to helping other kids with sickle cell disease, and to help others understand the effect it has on all of us.”