Graduating from high school is no small feat, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic changing the course of teaching. Teachers have had to drastically alter their course plans, catering to the online environment as much as possible in order to keep children safe and healthy, and students across the nation were not able to physically go to school for some time. Jaelyn Windom was one of those students that had their senior year altered due to
COVID-19. However, Jaelyn’s situation was a little different.

Simultaneously, Jaelyn was also undergoing treatment for sickle cell disease at MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach. Jaelyn was diagnosed with sickle cell disease at birth. Her family moved from Las Vegas to Long Beach when she began to visit MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s for treatments and medication at the age of four.

Sickle cell disease is the world’s most common genetic disease in the U.S., and most common among African Americans and Hispanic Americans. The clinicians and staff at the Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Institute (JJCCI) at Miller Children’s & Women’s are committed to the ensuring this important health need and programmatic support is available to the communities it serves. The Sickle Cell Program provides diagnosis, treatment, and
long-term health management care from birth to young adulthood.

“We are committed to providing quality and advanced care to our patients with serious blood disorders,” says Jacqueline Casillas, M.D., M.S.H.S, medical director, Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Institute, Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital. “Our clinical team has worked on expanded access to a new medication to help sickle cell patients like Jaelyn manage their condition. The sickle cell care team provides each patient with a unique combination of outstanding medical care and psychosocial programs to help support them with family, education, and community.”

During her senior year, Jaelyn was taking medication at home, but soon found that it was not as effective as she had hoped. She decided to come to Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital to receive treatments and she stayed there for the last month of her high school career. The sickle cell care team did transfusions, gave her medication, and monitored her condition in order to make sure she would remain as stable and comfortable as possible during her hospitalization.

The Sickle Cell Program offers school reintegration and educational support, so with the help of the hospital teacher, Angelica Nunez-Lindsay from the Hospital School Program, and the staff of JJCCI, Jaelyn was able to turn in the assignments needed for her to get enough credits to graduate. COVID had restricted the availability of the graduation ceremonies for many schools across the country, but the nurses at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital wanted to commemorate this special moment for Jaelyn.

Nurses created a mini graduation ceremony right in Jaelyn’s room. They made a sign for Jaelyn and came into her room chanting the graduation song. They gave her presents and congratulated her for her amazing achievement. The ceremony was filled with laughter, joy, and hope for the future. Jaelyn was discharged from the hospital in late January, and plans to take online college courses at Cerritos Community College. She wants to study Business and Marketing.

“The nurses were all so sweet,” says Jaelyn. “I was shocked when they got me presents and congratulated me for graduating while I was in the hospital. It made me feel accomplished and proud of myself. I could tell that they were all genuinely happy for me and I don’t think I’ll ever forget that. They truly care not just for my physical health, but my mental and emotional well-being too. And I’m forever grateful for them.”