When just 2 years old, Tami Ruark was brought to Children’s Medical Center Dallas after suffering a stroke, due to complications from sickle cell disease. She was taken from her mother’s care at that time. But soon after, she was adopted.
Then, at 5 years old, Tami’s adoptive mother and father divorced. Tami went to live instead with her father and his new partner, giving Tami two loving dads — but leaving her again with no mom.
Tami, now a 17-year-old, says that she loves her dads and her family, but when she was asked to depict what having sickle cell meant to her, she thought on her early memories, and drew a mother holding a child in a loving embrace.
“I’ve never really had a mom, but if I did, I picture her holding me tight, like on the shirt, and taking care of me and my sickle cell,” Tami says.
Tami’s drawing has become the symbol for National Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month here at Children’s. It is used on t-shirts that are being sold in the gift shops at our Dallas campus and at Children’s Medical Center at Legacy in Plano.
Tami’s present treatment for her sickle cell involves coming to Children’s from her family’s home in Denton for monthly blood transfusions to prevent complications of her disease.
As a senior at Denton High School, Tami is planning to attend The Art Institute of Dallas and study photography after graduation.
“I’m going to be a famous photographer,” she says.
Tami says her biggest hurdle moving forward with sickle cell will be not remaining under the care of the doctors and nurses at Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, where she’s been a patient for the last 15 years.
“I love my doctor and I think Children’s is wonderful,” Tami says. “They’re always looking for ways to keep kids comfortable and make things all about the kids.”
To learn more about sickle cell and what kids like Tami go through with the disease, visit our sickle cell FAQ page.