Jolene Scicchitano, a sixth-grade math teacher living in rural Pennsylvania, didn’t know she was a carrier for hemophilia A until her first son, Jacob, was born nearly 30 years ago. Her younger sons, Seth and Ben, were later born with hemophilia A as well.
“I had so many questions and so much fear,” Jolene recalled. “My vision was that they’re going to have a very difficult life with a lot of pain.” To compound her fears, Jacob was born at the height of the blood contamination epidemic in the 1980s, and Jolene worried about the safety and purity of the plasma products that were standard-of-care to treat hemophilia at the time.
As a mother of three young sons living with hemophilia, Jolene also became their caregiver. She spent numerous hours over the years administering and tracking their time-consuming and costly treatments. “The most difficult thing was taking care of their bleeding and the damage to their joints. But in addition to all of that, it was the amount of time – filing insurance paperwork, keeping treatment logs and taking care of bills. It was another part-time job,” she said.
Despite the hurdles of ensuring her sons received consistent and adequate treatment over the years, Jolene persevered and insisted that hemophilia would not define her boys’ childhood. Her family’s mantra became: hemophilia is a part of me, but it’s not all of me.
She continued to seek out as much information as she could. She educated herself and read whatever she could find, hoping for better treatments for her boys. Her family also turned to the local hemophilia community to meet others with this inherited disease and gain access to new information and resources. “Living in a rural area, getting to those conferences, we were able to meet other people [living with hemophilia]. The best way to learn about anything is by living through it. I think we have one of the best communities.”
And as Jacob, Seth and Ben grew up, they found daily inspiration from each other. “They’re resilient and perseverant,” Jolene said of her sons. While she worried about the kind of life her boys would lead with a diagnosis of hemophilia A, Jolene now looks to the future with great hope. With her oldest son married, her middle son graduated from college and in the workforce, and her youngest son finishing his last year of college, she is confident they will continue to give 100 percent to everything they do. “My sons are my heroes.”