Shayla Spann inspires students with her perseverance in pursuing her dream adverse her illness

Everyday is a miracle for a young lady whom doctors told would never live to see the age of 20.

Shayla Spann, also known as “Dimpz” for those who have seen her work on campus, is a third-year computer information systems student from Columbia S.C. She is strong and passionate about her well-being and has set major goals for herself. Although she is petite in size, she carries herself in a six-foot manner.

However, everything is not perfect. She lives with a serious disease called sickle cell anemia, in which the body makes sickle-shaped red blood cells.

According to the heart lung and blood institute Web site, the “sickle-shaped cells don’t move easily through your blood vessels.” They are stiff and sticky. They block blood flow in the blood vessels that lead to the limbs and organs. The disease is most common in “West and Central Africa where as many as 25 percent of the people have sickle cell trait, ” according to the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America.

“I had my first sickle cell crisis when I was six years old,” Spann said. She describes the pain as excruciating.

“It feels like someone taking a hammer and hitting me over and over again.” She remembered when she was in the hospital having seizures and then a stroke.

“I remember someone telling me that your hearing is the last sense to go,” she said. “All I could hear was my mom whispering the Lord’s prayer in my ear.” Spann said that moment changed her life forever. She started to take care of herself and said she had faith.

“I was still here, I was still living” said Spann, as she wiped tears from her eyes. She could not see herself being a pessimist knowing all she has been through. Although many people look up to her for strength and guidance, a hero must look up to someone as well.

Everything that has ever inspired Spann comes from her grandmother Evelyn Thompson. For Thompson, Spann is a blessing.

“I never dwelled on the sickle cell disease,” Thompson said. “With a strong background in Christianity, “we knew that there’s nothing that God cannot do.”

Spann said her family is a strong source of where her strength comes from everyday.

In high school, she went from having a sickle cell crisis once a month to once a year.

Doctors and other instructors told Spann she would not be able to do anything strenuous.

She did it all.

Michael McClain, Spann’s high school teacher, said he was inspired by his former student’s character.

“She is still continuing to do great things, and I’m very proud of her,” he said.

Spann took advantage of opportunites at Florida A&M to help her become a film director one day. FAMU’s Rampage Step Team showcased her talent.

“It was great to see my video in Lee Hall,” Spann said. After her debut with Rampage, she completed other projects including homecoming videos and directed a promo video for a clothing line called New Era Tradition.

She mentioned that she appreciates Florida A&M’s campus for giving her a chance to showcase her talent. It was not long before her talent was noticed; many producers said on blogs that she would be an upcoming film director.

Jadaun Sweet, a good friend of Spann said that when she excels, it inspires him to accomplish his goals.

“I look up to Shayla” Sweet said.

Shayla Spann sees herself as a successful film director, and hopes to be remembered as an inspiration.

“If my story inspires people, then I feel like I accomplished something” she said.