For 7-year-old Desi, going to the hospital became a regular occurrence after she experienced a stroke as a result of sickle cell disease. “Desi would tense up and it would be a very grueling day,” her mother, Pam, recalls. Desi’s doctor at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan suggested that Pam contact Kids Kicking Cancer, a program to teach Desi therapeutic martial arts to gain control over her mind and body during stressful times. The program also works with sickle cell patients.
Pam was thrilled with the quality of the program. “The kids learn real techniques and fundamentals of martial arts. For parents who are swamped with medical bills, the fact that there was no cost was also a big deal.”
To help Desi implement the techniques taught through Kids Kicking Cancer, Sensei Peter, started coming to each transfusion appointment. Desi and her medical team were surprised at how fast Desi took to using the techniques and their positive eﬀect on the transfusion experience.
Believing in their mission to teach the world, Desi taught her family members how to power breathe. They, in turn started teaching folks they knew at work, etc. To this day, people at Pam’s old job still talk about how they power breathe through their own diﬃcult situations.
Today, Desi, now 18, is also battling epilepsy. While dealing with the aftermath of a seizure or hearing tough news, her parents notice Desi will automatically switch to using her power breathing and body scans. In addition to any complications from sickle cell and moyamoya, these tools now help her process the frustration that epilepsy can bring.
When asked what she likes most about the program, Desi says, “The entire Kids Kicking organization treats me like a family member and I appreciate the support they provide. Sometimes it’s hard to use your techniques and you may need a coach to help you get past the initial panic. Knowing help is just a call away makes me feel like they have my back and that I am never alone.”