If you know me (or have read enough of this blog), you know that my absolute favorite rapper of all time is Prodigy from the super rap duo Mobb Deep. Prodigy tragically passed away last year way before his time and it hit me really hard then and I still listen or discuss him probably every day. Recently, a friend sent me a link on FB and asked me have I heard of this podcast called ‘The Realness’ presented by WNYC because they are discussing Prodigy’s life in detail. And wow, there has only been 4 (well five if you count Roxanne Shante’s introduction) episodes and I’m totally hooked. They not only discuss his beginnings in the music business and his family’s history but something that has also affected me and my family A LOT…..the sickle cell anemia disease. A lot of people (including some hospitals) still aren’t 100 percent sure of what this disease is and how it effects a person. I saw it firsthand with my sister dealing with it. I wrote a quick post about Prodigy last year when he died and touched on his illness. I never really made the connection of why I like Prodigy so much before, but I have been piecing a lot of stuff together (including my thinking about my sister) after discussing and reminiscing about my past.
Growing up I was a ‘normal’ little boy. You know, I would love to play and get dirty. I loved to roughhouse and play sports, etc. Jacinta, my older sister, was the exact opposite. She was the pretty, popular, petite one in the family. Most of the time, she would get all of the attention and compliments and I would just get the ‘Oh, hey…what’s up John John’ shout out. I remember being so jealous and mad about this. Also, I would have to do a bunch of stuff around the house (and outside) that my sister didn’t have to do and I would definitely notice. To be completely honest, I think this at one point spilled over into my adulthood. I would also ask my parents ‘Why doesn’t anyone compliment me?’ and ‘Why do I have to do such and such, but SHE doesn’t?!?’ One thing I do remember about my sister though is that when she got sick, she got REALLY sick. Jacinta couldn’t do a lot of the stuff I was able to do without causing a sickle cell ‘crisis’ for herself. She couldn’t hang out too much in the cold air because cold air can trigger the disease. She couldn’t really over exert herself because THAT would cause her to get sick and cause a crisis. I remember a few times we had to take my sister to the hospital because she would be in so much pain at home. I heard her in her room and I would remember thinking ‘Geez, why doesn’t the medicine that we have here at home work for her’. But the routine was always the same: my mom or dad would take her into the hospital; she would be there for a few days and then come home. I got used to seeing her with all of the IV’s in her arm and how to act in a hospital. Back in the day, I felt like my sister was a drama queen, so I point blank asked her one day, ‘does it hurt that bad?’ and she just looked at me with a very serious face and almost a whisper in her voice and said ‘Yes, John John….this REALLY hurts’.
I actually was reading up on the sickle cell disease randomly a while back and started talking with Ayren about how much it effects people and how painful it can be. And I swear that I never really made the connection with maybe that’s why my parents didn’t make Jacinta over exert herself when it came time for duties like cutting the grass. This is another example of why I hold my parents in such high regards. They went through having to see their child suffer through these extremely painful bouts with the sickle call illness and couldn’t really do anything other than try their best to soothe her and not freak her (or me) out. I asked my dad ‘were you and momma scared? And he said ‘Well…..yeah, what can you do though?’ And I talked to my mom in detail about the story where her and my dad would take my sister to the hospital and the doctors insisting that my sister just 'slept on her wrists wrong' and that was the reason for her little bones to be bent and painful. My parents just didn't buy that bullshit excuse and eventually an angel disguised as a nursed took on my sister's case and finally saw that she had the sickle cell disease. Incidentally, it took Prodigy's grandmother to do the same. Since the Sickle Cell disease effects mainly people of color, the sickle cell patients (such as Prodigy) are misdiagnosed and mistreated and that has to be hard on parents and families.
Ultimately, we lost a hip hop legend too early to a disease that I am very familiar with. This podcast was done really well and I highly suggest checking it out even if you don't listen to Mobb Deep or hip hop. A lot of good, worthwhile information.