Myles refuses to let sickle cell disease slow him down

The sickle cell team at the Aflac Cancer Center and Blood Disorders Service of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta knows Myles Horton well. Diagnosed with sickle cell disease at 3 months of age, Myles has become a familiar, friendly face at Children’s at Hughes Spalding.

Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder in which red blood cells, which are typically round, are shaped like crescents, or sickles. The sickle shape makes it difficult for the cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. The cells often get stuck and block blood flow, causing a sickle cell pain crisis.

The 5-year-old’s battle against the disease has not been easy. He suffered his first sickle cell crisis at just 6 months of age. Soon after, Myles, had his spleen, which had become inflamed because of the disease, removed.

“This was when he was at his sickest,” said Myles’ mother, Carol Cook, who, along with his father, Willie Horton, knew little about the disease before the diagnosis.

Just a few months later, Myles had another surgery; frequent gallstones caused by the disease meant his gallbladder had to be removed. Despite his struggles, Carol said Myles manages to take his treatments in stride. “He understands what’s going on,” she said. “He’s adapted the best way he knows how.”

Myles receives a blood transfusion about every four weeks. The transfusions put healthy red blood cells into his body to reduce the chance of a pain crisis. Because of vein problems, Myles now wears a port to make his transfusions easier.

Though he has never known life without sickle cell disease, Myles, who loves science and sports, refuses to let it slow him down. Carol estimates that Myles, who also suffers from allergies and asthma, sees his doctors at Children’s at Hughes Spalding about 50 times each year, but if you ask Myles, he would rather be golfing.

“He loves golf,” Carol said. “He says, ‘I’m going to be the next Tiger Woods.’”