“Mommy, it feels like the sharks are biting me,” Kendric said.


Deborah was devastated when she realized the gravity of her son’s pain. He was diagnosed with sickle cell disease at birth and his parents quickly found innovative research and treatments available at Children’s National Hospital. They enrolled him in a long-term clinical study and gave him medication to prevent infections. 


“The network of doctors at Children’s National gave us reassurance and lots of hope,” Deborah says. “They made us feel like family.”


At age 3, Kendric experienced his first pain crisis. He would not let anyone touch him due to the severity. Over the years, episodes worsened and constantly interrupted Kendric’s life, forcing him to distance himself from his friends and the things he loves, often including school. 


Through the pain, his resilience shines. “I’ve seen him go to birthday parties when he didn’t feel well and went to the emergency room the next day, just because he wanted to be part of that special moment with his friends,” Deborah says.


Expert care empowered Kendric to manage the pain, understand the science behind it and ultimately chart a path to recovery. “My care team taught me how to deal with my disease and everything that I need to know for the future,” he says. “They gave me hope that I could be cured.”


At age 12, Kendric became the first commercial patient in the nation, approved by insurance, to begin a gene therapy recently FDA-approved for pediatric treatment. It involves extracting his stem cells and genetically modifying them to reduce risk of sickling. He will face chemotherapy and a month of hospitalization. After treatment, he still will have sickle cell disease, but doctors tell him he can anticipate dramatically less pain or it may even disappear. 


“It’s a miracle of sorts,” Deborah says. “Our son is on the cusp of being healed.”


Kendric hopes to use his passion for genetics to pursue a career in research and discover cures that help kids like him thrive.

Groundbreaking Treatment for Kids with Sickle Cell Disease

Innovative research and world-class care at Children’s National Hospital enables young patients with sickle cell disease to discover healthier futures.

Kendric and his parents
A young patient at Children's National Hospital.

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A young patient at Children's National Hospital.