Ernest Shand did his best to keep New Year’s Eve celebration going.
“I looked at the doctor and said ‘It’s New Year’s Eve,” he said with a hopeful look. “He wasn’t having it and either was my wife (Valerie).”
Instead the Horizon Honors boys basketball coach spent the night and another full day in the hospital in order to get treatment, IV fluids and pain relievers, for sickle cell anemia, an affliction he has dealt with his whole life but didn’t have a major incident until he was 18.
It’s serious disorder in which the body makes sickle-shaped red blood cells. “Sickle-shaped” means that the red blood cells are shaped like a crescent.
Normal red blood cells are disc-shaped and look like doughnuts without holes in the center. They move easily through your blood vessels. Red blood cells contain an iron-rich protein called hemoglobin. This protein carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.
When the 34-yearold gets run down – especially during the basketball season – he is most susceptible.
So of course the day after he was discharged from the hospital he was out scouting the next opponent for the Eagles.
“There are only a few things I can control – getting sleep, staying hydrated and taking my medication,” he said. “During the season it can be hard.”
Sleeping isn’t always easy when a team is 5-11, but he takes preemptive measures by wearing a Camelback filled with water while he is teaching and coaching in an attempt to prevent another reaction like he had at the end of the last season when he missed four games.
“It was hard when he was gone because we missed his leadership,” senior point guard Cameron Frith said. “Everything was just off, in disorder. Those were important games and we didn’t play like we could.”
Shand, who is in his in fourth year at Horizon Honors, hated missing time but there are times he just has to give in to the affliction.
“It can hit hard sometimes,” he said. “Sometimes I don’t have to be admitted, just taken care of in the ER. It’s a matter of letting it subside. It’s not as bad as some people have it. I’ve only had one major surgery (gall bladder and spleen removed), but some people have to get blood transfusions bi-weekly basis and some don’t even get to see 34.”
He has been able to do just about everything he wants, although his own playing career was cut short due to lack of energy, as Valerie keeps a watchful eye on him and their two little ones and the relief Horizon Honors gives him.
“She never bats an eyelash,” he said. “It’s a burden on her and I don’t want to do that. She is my rock.”
And when he isn’t with his family, Shand gains comfort by being with the Eagles.
“This is my sanctuary,” he said. “There isn’t a better place to be. I love this place.”
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.