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June 29, 2016- Daniella Macolino is a 24 year old actress who pursues her dreams each day while living, and thriving, with thalassemia major. CAF thanks Daniella for allowing us to share her inspiring story.
When I was four months old, my family and I were on vacation in Vermont when my mom noticed I was turning yellow after my older brother took me out in the snow. She overlooked it, thinking I may have just been tired from all the traveling and playing outside. But the next day I was looking worse with bags under my eyes, so my parents rushed me to the hospital. The doctor ran some tests and broke the news to my parents that I have thalassemia major, also known as Cooley’s Anemia. Not only would I need a blood transfusion right away, I would also need to continue receiving transfusions every two weeks for the rest of my life in order to survive.
My mother was born and raised in France, and she came to America not speaking any English. Neither of my parents had any knowledge that they carried the thalassemia trait and had never even heard of it before my diagnosis. Since then, my parents have become my biggest advocates and made sure I grew up with an amazing support system of friends and family. My siblings, Paul, Joseph, and Victoria, understand what I go through and don’t look at me any differently.
Living with thalassemia has been difficult, especially as a teenager. I wanted to be like my friends—go out and have sleepovers—but couldn’t because I had to be home to take my Desferal injection. This nightly routine requires me to sleep with a needle pumping medication into my body to remove the deadly iron buildup caused by receiving frequent blood transfusions. I hated it, and it was very inconvenient for me. It was frustrating waking up with bruises on my legs and arms from the needle being in all night.
Beyond that, it was hard trying to fit in while feeling so different because I had an illness and had to go to the hospital frequently. I only told a few of my closest friends that I had this disorder. Now that I am older and more confident, I am very open about sharing my experience with everyone. This illness isn’t going to define who I am, but it will make me stronger and I know that’s why people are inspired by my story!
The Cooley’s Anemia Foundation has been so amazing to me and my family. I can contact the Foundation anytime I have questions or need anything and they are there for me. The amount of gratitude I have for them, I can’t even put into words! I have been able to meet the most amazing people by attending Foundation conferences and other events. We are a true community, supporting each other’s passions, goals, and dreams.
It is so important to get involved with and support the Foundation, especially if you or someone you know has thalassemia. I know I can speak on behalf of patients like me when I say that getting involved is worth it because we are raising public awareness of our disorder as well as funds for medical research. One day, there will be a cure and I believe it will come sooner than expected!
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” -Confucius
I believe that no matter what, everyone should follow their dreams and
no obstacle should stand in the way of accomplishing that! Those who know me know that I am pursuing an acting career and I have been for a while now. I don’t know exactly what it is about being in front of the camera or on stage that makes me feel amazing… but I know that I could not live without acting.
I’ve had to sacrifice so many things in order to keep doing what I love, but I’m no stranger to challenges! This is what I want to do and I will never give up. All the hard work is paying off because each year, I find myself doing better and better in my acting career. From January to May of this year I played a leading role in an independent feature film called The Prey—look out for it in October! And in August, I will be in a short horror film which I am really excited about. Tonight, I appear in an episode of The Perfect Murder on the ID channel. It is so crazy to even think that I have made it this far! Even though I put myself down every now and then thinking that I should be doing more, I am still really proud of what I have accomplished so far.
My advice to other thalassemia patients is to not look at yourself any differently than anyone else. Live your life day by day. Do what you love and don’t listen to anyone who puts you down, because at the end of the day you are a strong individual capable of doing what you want!
Just always remember to be safe and take care of yourself. It is important to be compliant by doing your chelation EVERY DAY and staying on schedule with blood transfusions. If you’re tired or feeling ill, don’t put it to the side! Your health comes first no matter what.
Thalassemia is rare and I know many people have not heard about it, but it is just as dangerous as any other chronic illness. Every patient is different and there is a wide range of complications. Please help us raise awareness and if you have never gotten your blood tested, visit your doctor to see if you carry the trait.