Jourdan Dunn is a single parent with a son, Riley,who takes penicillin and Folic Acid daily to treat sickle-cell anemia. A disease of the blood, sickle-cell is a genetic disorder in which red blood cells develop abnormally. Such abnormalities lead to clogged blood vessels in which painful episodes known as sickle cell crises arise, lasting anywhere from a few minutes to several days. Jourdan recently sat down with Sunday Times Style magazine to give more insight into the effects that the disease has had on her and Riley’s life and how she balances motherhood with her career as a model.
On how she told her mom when she became pregnant at eighteen:
“I made Antoine [her brother] distract Mum in HMV at the airport on the way to a family holiday, while I did the pregnancy test,” Dunn said. “It was the worst holiday ever. I didn’t tell Mum, but in Jamaica, we went to see a psychic together who said straight away that I was pregnant. I denied it, but went back to see him on my own. He told me that great things would happen to me with the baby. He was right.”
On how she balances her career with motherhood:
“I’ll never get used to being away from Riley, but having mum makes it easier,” she said. “I used to Skype with him, but it makes it worse. He hates it when he sees a suitcase in the front room. He’ll start saying: ‘No Mummy.’”
On discovering that Riley has sickle-cell anemia:
“I found out I carried it when I was pregnant, which was a huge shock. The first time Riley had a crisis, I was working in New York and due to travel to Puerto Rico. Mum was amazing and reassured me he was in the best hands and that I should keep working.”
On her feelings about the disease and the public’s awareness.
“[Sickle-cell is] something people don’t really know about, due to the fact it’s genetic, so it doesn’t have the high profile of HIV or malaria. People have always stared at me, but not in a good way. [Riley's diagnosis] made me almost not want to leave the house, but I made myself get over it by forcing myself to be more confident. Riley looks just like a normal boy, but I can’t get away from the fact he has a serious disease.”