(WJW) – Sickle cell disease is a chronic condition that patients live with for most of their lives.

Its impact is devastating, Danielle Lee knows all too well.

“How many times have you been to the hospital in your life?”

“Oh my God, I honestly can’t count,” answered Lee. 

Lee born and raised in Cleveland, is now pursuing her dream of being an actress in LA. 

However, her road to Hollywood was far from easy. 

Lee says she suffered a sickle cell attack every semester in college.

The result: it took four different schools and nine years to complete her education.

“A lot of times, I wanted to give up. A lot of times I would call my mom from college and say “I quit; I can’t do this. I am an actor; I don’t need college anyway,” said Lee.

This is where we meet Dr. Rabi Hanna with the Cleveland Clinic, who has been treating patients like Danielle for decades. 

The whole time, Dr. Hanna was frustrated that there was no cure for this cruel disease.

“The median death for patients is around 45. So that’s literally 50 percent of patients that die before the age of 45,” explained Dr. Hanna. 

That is until now. 

Dr. Hanna is a part team at the Clinic helping to develop that elusive cure. 

“In a very simple way, every person can become their own donor.”

That’s right,  patients don’t need to rely on anything other than their own blood. 

Dr. Hanna says first, they take a sample of a patient’s red blood cells.

The sample goes to the lab to get fixed. 

During that time, patients receive chemotherapy to get rid of bone marrow that isn’t working. 

When the patient’s sample is fixed, it goes back into their body to replace unhealthy cells

Danielle is one of the first to receive this potential cure and calls it life-changing. 

“Motrin is starting to work for me, and I haven’t been able to have just Motrin in YEARS.”

The aspiring actress wants to have a big family someday but is always worried she wouldn’t be around to see them grow up. 

With this treatment, that dream feels possible. 

“It means that I potentially will be here to see my kids grow up, go to college and make something of themselves and just have that normal family life.”