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Two weeks ago, Danaricka Jenkins began feeling lousy. She was a little short of breath and all stuffed up. Since she was at the hospital already being treated for what she said was an infection caused by a catheter, the doctors decided to dig a little deeper.
It turned out to be bad news: Jenkins had pneumonia. Doctors also discovered blood clots in her upper chest area, close to her heart.
It was one of many bad days for the 26-year-old single mother of a little girl, who already suffered from sickle cell disease and who guts out public transportation to a clinic three times a week for dialysis for a failing kidney.
But sitting next to Jenkins in a room at Aventura Hospital as she digs into a bag of popcorn and proudly displays her knitting prowess, it’s pretty clear that not much will keep her down.
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“They discovered the sickle cell when I was pregnant with my daughter,” Jenkins explained. “It never stopped me from anything. The only thing I don’t like is coming in and out of the hospital.”
Sickle cell disease is a red blood cell disorder that is more likely to attack blacks and Hispanics. Symptoms typically include anemia, fatigue and infections, and the disease often causes the swelling of hands and feet. Jenkins wasn’t certain if the disease led to her infection or played a factor in her getting pneumonia.
But she was certain none of her illnesses were going to bring her down. After all, she has a child to care for — a little girl named Zuri who turns 3 on New Year’s Eve and who’s her “everything.”
Jenkins, who works part-time security at Hard Rock Stadium when she can, was nominated for Wish Book by the National Kidney Foundation of Florida. And with Christmas quickly approaching, she would like some help in getting gifts for Zuri. At the top of the list this year: an iPad suited for a young child who her mother says is curious about just about everything.
“She’s my rock. I’ll do anything for that little girl,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins was born and raised in Miami and graduated from Norland Senior High in 2011. Her desire to go to college and love for a boyfriend who joined the military, led her to North Carolina’s Coastal Carolina Community College, where she studied study criminal justice and early childhood education.
But that plan derailed when her relationship soured. Her mother bought her back to Miami in 2014. After stints at McDonald’s and a Broward County Waffle House and working as a nanny, Jenkins found employment at Hard Rock Stadium, where she works at the gate wanding people arriving for football games and concerts.
While working as a nanny she became pregnant with Zuri, who was born after seven months and weighed just under 3 pounds. Now, the child is happy and healthy. Jenkins said. Zuri’s father was around during her first year, but is now out of the picture.
“He abandoned her,” she said.
Now Jenkins and her daughter live with Zuri’s grandmother in Miami Gardens. Zuri calls her grandma “GG,” Jenkins said, because it’s easier to pronounce. Daughter and grandmother have grown close, and Jenkins said her mom often gives her a lift to the clinic when public transportation falls through.
The transportation issue could be solved if she ever saved up enough money to buy her dream vehicle, a new Dodge Charger. But Jenkins isn’t being greedy. Her latest business venture: knitting and crocheting headbands and beanies that she plans to sell on Facebook.
“It’s all for my baby, she’s my everything,” Jenkins said. “So now, I’m working on making teddy bears.”
How to help
Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year. To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook. For information, call 305-376-2906 or email wishbook@MiamiHerald.com. (The most requested items: laptops and tablets for school, furniture, accessible vans.) Read more at Miamiherald.com/wishbook .