WILMINGTON, DE (WTXF) - Sickle cell anemia can certainly be devastating. Young people who suffer from it often need to eat more. It’s especially hard that many with the illness don’t feel like eating and also don’t like the taste of the high-calorie food their doctors recommend.
But now, there’s a big book making a big improvement in the kitchen.
FOX 29's Joyce Evans met up with Gina Dennis-Watkins who had to lay down the law with teenage daughter Amiya.
"Her diet is kind of up and down,” her mom said. “She probably likes ten things. Encouraging her to eat things high in caloric intake is kind of hard."
They were having that old debate about whether their food will taste good even if it doesn’t look good. And that can be frustrating.
"Name one thing that's gluten-free that's good.” “Try it.” “NO!"
"Some nasty stuff."
"I don't really like vanilla yogurt."
"Oh, it's whole grain. That's probably nasty."
"Mom, none of these look good. They look like vegetable juice."
Amiya doesn’t look like it, but her mom said she has spent a lot of time in the hospital.
"She gets pain, unable to walk at times, headache. She loses a lot of blood volume which will require her to stay hydrated. That's another hard thing for teenagers," she explained.
Sickle cell is an inherited blood disorder. Blood flow and oxygen are cut off. That causes severe pain, infection, organ damage and worse. Black populations are highly affected.
According to Nemours/DuPont Hospital for Children, kids with sickle cell “break down red blood cells faster than other children do, their bodies use more energy and need more calories to maintain health, avoid complications and keep pace with their peers.”
The hospital’s dietitian Michell Fullmer was on a quest to find a way to entice sickle cell youngsters to eat more.
"They actually tend to be smaller and thinner than their peers,” she observed. “We just want to encourage some high-calorie, high-nutritious foods that have folic acid in it, Vitamin A, Vitamin C. Their bodies are burning up a lot more of those vitamins than their peers."
Gina got creative with Amiya.
"I kind of throw some things into a smoothie and kind of trick her that way, but she's a smart girl. She knows what I'm doing."
That kind of blending gave Michell an idea: Get her young patients to compile a special recipe book, full of foods they like that also give them the calories and nutrients they need to be healthy -- and hopefully out of the hospital!
Michell offered an example.
"If a kid will eat a salad, maybe sticking some nuts on that salad, for sickle cell disease that will give them a little more calories and a little more folic acid," she suggested.
Picky eater Amiya is on the cookbook’s cover, in the middle.
"Making the book was fun, just learning how I could eat to help my body," she said.
And making the food can be quick and easy.
"So not only do we have the folic acid from these two ingredients, we have Vitamin D in the yogurt which is important with sickle cell disease, and has actually been shown to decrease sickle cell pain," according to the dietitian.
There’s no more tricking Amiya into eating chili. Now, she cooks up her own wellness using ingredients she never would’ve eaten. She also doesn’t feel so different because of her medical situation.
How well is the book doing? Michell and the kids are working on its second edition! It’s expected out soon and the price can’t be beat. Click here to download it for free.