Photo of Tamar Mitchell

Coping with Hemophilia Through Music

Tamar Mitchell says that thanks to his hemophilia, he can handle anything
Author: Tamar Mitchell, as told to Leslie Pepper

Music has always been a huge part of my life. It’s helped me to get through some of the toughest times. When I was little and had to get infusions, which isn’t pleasant for anyone, let alone a young kid, my family would sing “Tomorrow” from the musical Annie to distract me from the pain. And it worked! The first song my mom taught me on the keyboard was “Lean on Me,” which became my go-to song whenever I was in pain as I grew older. I knew I could always lean on my mom and my family whenever I didn’t feel strong, which is exactly what the lyrics say.

There are seven kids in my family, ranging in age from 12 to 24 (I’m 20), and four of us have severe hemophilia A, so it’s always been a part of all of our lives. I had a brother who died of bleeding complications before I was born.

All of my siblings and I play an instrument or sing, and three of us perform together every Sunday for the Hazel Crest Assembly Church, in Country Club Hills, Illinois. I play organ, Daivion, who’s 16, plays bass, and Trevon, who’s 12, plays keyboard. Music is very powerful because I play no matter how I feel. Even if I’m in pain, music keeps me feeling positive.

Last year I auditioned for the television show The Voice. I made it to the second audition with the producers, and it’s currently still pending. I’d like America to see that hemophilia doesn’t have to stop you. But whatever is meant to happen, I’ll be OK.

I see growing up with hemophilia as a blessing. That’s not to say it hasn’t been a challenge. I always knew I was different from other children, and that was hard. I couldn’t participate in many sports for fear of a bleed, and I was in pain from internal bleeding a lot. I ran track in high school and after suffering a significant ankle injury, my coach was so supportive, always telling me that a slow, steady pace is the best pace. I don’t think I could have learned that lesson any other way. Over the years I have come to accept that my strengths and my challenges make me who I am.

Now that I’m trying to get into the music industry, hemophilia keeps me motivated. I’ve been through so much already, both physically and mentally, there’s nothing anyone can throw at me that I can’t handle.

I’m currently in college studying music and performance. Ultimately I want to be a performer and play for the whole world. I’d also like to start my own foundation and become a voice for those with bleeding disorders. You can do anything you put your mind to. I’d like to help everyone see that what they have is not a weakness or something that holds them back, but instead a symbol of uniqueness.