KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Imani Mobley, 3, waves to the camera as she drives a pink toy car down the hallway at East Tennessee Children's Hospital.
It looks like all fun and games, but the toddler is receiving treatment for sickle cell, a painful disease caused by a genetic mutation.
"I've learned to come to terms with it and become more at ease because there is nothing I can do about it. So, I need to be strong for her," her mother Maurissa Mobley said about struggling with the diagnosis.
Dr. Jennifer Hamm, a hematologist at Children's Hospital said that sickle cell can cause a number of different complications that can require hospitalizations for intense pain. Imani hasn't experienced that yet, but she has spent a lot of time in the hospital's Hematology Clinic.
Money raised at the annual Fantasy of Trees fundraiser has helped the clinic purchase art and toys to make the visits feel less clinical.
"The donations, yeah, they provide fun for these kids and a second home, but from a medical standpoint, they provide a distraction. So, when we need to get our job done to help them, we can do that more easily if they have that video game to play," Hamm said.
For Maurissa, the artwork and toys are more than a distraction. They serve as reminders of the community's support.
"What gives me hope is the community, because I know without funding and support, we can't go further with testing and try to find a resolution for sickle cell. So, that's where my hope and my optimism lies, that one day science will create a reversal for sickle cell disease," Mobley said.
While Imani's road will be a long one, Maurissa knows she's in good hands.