Sixteen-year-old Jordan Epps doesn’t let her sickle cell disease define who she is.
“It’s a part of me, but it’s not who I am,” she said.
A student in the culinary program at Copley-Fairlawn High School, she sees herself as an aspiring chef. Her specialty is desserts, but she also loves to create new pasta dishes, pizzas and breads.
Jordan is also a budding photographer and writer. Sometimes, her little sister Lauren, 9, serves as her model for photographs.
As she considers colleges and future plans, her mom, Audrey, remembers how difficult it was to find out that her beautiful newborn daughter had sickle cell disease. But she’s grateful at how well Jordan has responded to treatment.
Sickle cell disease is an inherited disorder of the hemoglobin, a protein in the red blood cells. Because red sickle cells are hard, sticky and sickle-shaped, they clog the flow of blood and oxygen in the body. This can cause problems ranging from severe pain and organ damage to growth impairment and strokes.
“When Jordan was a baby, she got a lot of swelling in her hands, legs and feet,” said Audrey. “As she got older, she started having pain episodes that required hospitalization.”
Typically, her hospital stays would last at least a week, so she could receive blood transfusions to get her blood flowing properly again.
At age 6, she had her spleen and gallbladder removed.
For the last three years, Jordan has been taking medication that is successfully controlling her illness. Her only visits to Akron Children’s Hospital have been for monthly, routine check-ups.
Instead, you’re more likely to find this active teen organizing an event with Student Council, working a part-time job at Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, perfecting her banana pudding recipe, or photographing the beauty she finds with the changing seasons.
“I’m just a regular person. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me,” Jordan said.
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