Gail Campbell Woolley (1957–2015) grew up in Washington, D.C., and was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia at age seven. She studied journalism and international relations at Syracuse University and worked as a reporter for the Washington Star, the Baltimore Sun, and the Washington Times before beginning a career in corporate public relations. She died at age 58, exceeding the life expectancy her doctor predicted by more than 20 years.
When Gail Campbell Woolley was seven, a pediatrician told her mother that Gail suffered from sickle cell anemia, a rare blood disease, and that she would be dead by age 35. While others may have responded to this horrifying news by descending into a fog of self-pity, Gail went in the opposite direction. She decided to live an eventful, exciting life that ultimately included―despite a troubled home life and the systemic racism and sexism of the late 20th century―academic success, an impressive career, a long and loving marriage, and the ability to leave her unmistakable stamp on every person she met. By the time she finally succumbed to her disease at age 58 in 2015, she had ground that doctor’s words into dust.