HealthLeader

An Online Wellness Magazine produced by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)

A Rough Ride

How one horse-riding enthusiast lives with the chronic pain of sickle cell disease

A Rough Ride

Semaj Bailey can vividly recall her first sickle cell disease “pain crisis” even though it happened nearly 20 years ago.

She was working as a stunt performer on the Austin set of the 1997 TV miniseries “True Women.” Bailey — who started riding horses almost as soon as she could walk — was there to serve as a stunt double for the more rigorous riding segments.

Bailey remembers getting sick on the set and passing out. “The next thing I knew I was in a hospital getting a blood transfusion,” the 37-year-old says.

It was the first of dozens of “pain crises” she would experience in the ensuing years. “It feels as if someone is going up and down your body with a jackhammer,” says Bailey, who loves barrel racing. “You have trouble breathing and fever.”

She averages three to five episodes of intense pain a year, and many lead to hospitalizations.

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