'Junior' from SHMS Shares Struggles with Sickle Cell Disease
4/5/2013, 12:18 p.m.
Comedian Kier Spates, also known to millions of Americans as "Junior" on the Steve Harvey Morning Show, told a crowd gathered in the nation's capital on April 4 at Howard University Hospital's Freedmen's Clinic, something he'd never told any of his radio listeners.
He also hadn't told any of the thousands of people across the nation who've seen him perform his standup comedy routines. It was something, said Spates, that he'd never talked about publicly.
"I have sickle cell disease," the Houston, Texas, native, told the dozens of people gathered at the clinic, where in sharing his personal struggles with the illness, he urged them to never give up.
Spates talked about the painful attacks associated with the disease that he suffered as a child and how nobody knew why he was screaming in anguish until he was finally diagnosed with the disease at age four.
He explained to the audience how he couldn't play like other children because the disease caused pain and exhaustion when he exercised.
He told how his parents suffered financially because they were so busy taking him back and forth to the hospital to keep him alive, that it was difficult for them to hold down a steady job.
And as Spates talked about the painful, debilitating blood disorder that affects one of every 500 African-Americans, tears began to well up in the eyes of the listeners.
Spates, who recently became a spokesperson for the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, appeared as part of an effort to raise awareness, support and funding for the fight against sickle cell by the Howard University Center for Sickle Disease, WHUR-FM 96.3 radio and Faces of Our Children.
He was joined by singer Angie Stone, who along with Spates and recording artist Brian McKnight, is appearing through April 7 in the play "Love Lies" at the Warner Theater.
Despite the seriousness of the subject, Spates was able to provide some comedic relief.
"All sickle cell patients are funny, because we almost died 20 times," he said in reference to the frequent emergencies sickle cell sufferers face.
Chimalang Ngu, 31, a sickle cell disease patient, came to hear Spates speak.
He is one of four children, but is the only one with the disease. He said he is a successful marketing associate, but has had to take some time off because of his health.
"I used to work in Las Vegas, but I had to move back to D.C. because of my strong support system here," he said. "They really do know how to take care of me here at Howard University Hospital."
Porsha Hall, 23, suffers with the disease but also serves as a patient advocate for Life for Sickle Cell Foundation.
She helps assist the doctors that specialize in sickle cell research. Hall said she got so sick at one point, that she had to drop out her first year in college at Frostburg State University, in Maryland. Like most sickle cell patients, her joints and bones mostly hurt. Morphine and other drugs, like Demerol, ease the pain, she said.
That prompted a joke from Spates.
"Whoever made the drug Demerol," he said, "please keep making it, because it's great."