Sickle Cell Sufferers Face Uncommon Pain

Harrison, a registered nurse at the New Orleans Sickle Cell Center, has struggled with sickle cell disease since she was a young girl. She was even placed on antidepressants as a teenager because she was so affected by being unable to participate in sports or school activities.

Working Through the Pain

Though the struggle is far from over for sickle cell sufferers, there has been some medical headway. In the past, patients with sickle cell disease were not expected to live past their 20s. With the expanded research on the disease and improved clinical care, patients now may live past their 40s, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

In treating sickle cell disease, Benjamin has found that aggressive pain treatment can shorten the length of the pain crisis, which can ease other health problems brought on by the decreased oxygen and stress related to the pain and, over time, improve the patient's quality of life.

"[Pain] is an extremely significant problem for these patients," Benjamin said. "When we address it, it impacts them immensely in a positive way."

Davis, a self-proclaimed clown, chooses not to dwell on the pain.

"Normally I downplay it," she said. "I think it's great when they don't know and when they find out say, 'Oh really?!'"

ABC News production associate Rony Camille contributed to this article.

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