Celebrating Sickle Cell Patients at Connecticut Children’s Posted on March 14, 2023 Determined to make patients with Sickle Cell Disease and their families feel more comfortable while at Connecticut Children’s, Kelly Ha, LMSW, a member of Connecticut Children’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Advisory Board, turned a creative idea into reality in launching the “I See Me” Story Club in September of 2022 in honor of Sickle Cell Awareness Month. Ha works in Connecticut Children’s Hematology/Oncology Division with patients who have Sickle Cell Disease. What is Sickle Cell Disease? Sickle Cell Disease refers to a group of red blood cell disorders that are inherited. People with Sickle Cell disease have abnormal hemoglobin, which is the protein that carries oxygen. This causes the blood cells to have a “C” shape, like the farm tool called a “sickle.” Where can I find pediatric hematologists and oncologists near me? Connecticut Children’s has 5 locations specializing in blood disorders and blood cancer: Hartford, Danbury, Farmington, Shelton and also South Hadley, MA. Request an Appointment Sickle Cell Disease disproportionately affects BIPOC people Sickle Cell Disease affects people of African descent more than other races or ethnicities. Connecticut Children’s comprehensive sickle cell program provides state-of-the-art care that helps patients live healthier than ever because of the therapies available. >Related: Why We Need to Pay Attention to BIPOC Mental Health Literacy, bonding and empowerment for Sickle Cell Patients at Connecticut Children’s Ha’s experience as a social worker and her passion for DEI, advocacy and anti-racism all inspired her to create Connecticut Children’s, “I See Me” Story Club—which provides Sickle Cell Disease patients with age-appropriate books with characters who look like them. “As a BIPOC woman, I never saw myself in books growing up so I wanted that to be different for our patients as it is so meaningful and has a big impact on identity formation,” said Ha. “The goal is to provide a book to each patient during their clinic appointments and hospital admissions as a means of distraction that promotes literacy, bonding, and empowerment.” The “I See Me” Story Club offers patients the opportunity to select books from a roving cart that Ha brings around to their treatment areas. Their reactions are priceless. >Related: Pediatric-Expert Approved Books for Overcoming Challenges Kelly Ha, founder of the “I See Me” program, poses with a young champion. Sickle Cell Patients at Connecticut Children’s feel seen. Kelly Ha, LMSW, at Connecticut Children’s. “One of my patients, a 16-year-old Sickle Cell Disease patient, said to me that she never sees herself on book covers, especially while she was going through elementary and middle school,” said Ha. “She spent a good chunk of time looking through the books and scheming which book she is going to take next from the cart. Her excitement would have made you think she was in a candy store or on a shopping spree at Forever 21!” “One of our patients was hospitalized and clearly needed a distraction from her sickle cell-related symptoms,” said Ha. “I was able to bring my cart.” “Seeing her eyes light up after finding a novel about body empowerment and self-love with a dark-skinned women on the cover confirms the reason we created this initiative in the first place. Something as small as a book can make such a huge impact on our patients’ empowerment.” Popular “I See Me” Story Club books Recommendations for children’s books about Sickle Cell Disease include: Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo On The Come Up by Angie Thomas The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney The Crossover by Kwame Alexander I Am Enough By Grace Byers Hair Like Mine by LaTashia M. Perry Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor All Because You Matter by Tami Charles For more information about Connecticut Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, or to schedule a virtual or in-person appointment, please call: 860.545.9630.