BDFF Spotlight: Tony Brown
Tony Brown, MSW
Hometown: St. Petersburg
Involvement with BDFF: 10 years
It appears Tony Brown has finally found his calling.
For the past two years, as the Medical Social Worker/Program Planner at the University of South Florida Hemophilia Treatment Center, Tony has been helping patients get through the tough times by using his firsthand knowledge as a fellow hemophiliac who has seen his share of ups and downs.
“I meet with patients tackling insurance issues and attend self-help groups,” says Tony, currently serving on the Tampa walk committee for the Bleeding Disorders Foundation of Florida. “My experience has helped a lot with new patients. It makes them feel more comfortable. I can give them advice based on what I went through.”
Born with hemophilia in St. Petersburg, Florida, Tony, 32, was the first one in his family to be diagnosed with the bleeding disorder, followed by his younger brother, who was born with a milder case. Being that treatment and understanding of hemophilia was still being advanced, Tony had a rough childhood, one that almost caused him to believe he could never live a normal life.
“When I would bleed as a child, I had to go to the hospital for a week at a time, maybe six to seven times during the school year,” Tony recalls. “I missed a lot of school and was held back in third grade.”
He also had to endure the reality of contaminated batches of factor back in the late 80s and early 90s. Then unhappiness set in.
“There was definitely a lot of depression and the feeling of being left out,” he says. “It didn’t feel like I belonged. I couldn’t play as much because of the chance of bleeding. I didn’t have many friends and being held back made it worse.”
Tony says it was during his junior year in high school that he began to snap out of his self-pity, concentrating on the affirmation that he could accomplish anything he set his mind to. He credits Camp Boggy Creek that he attended when he was 10 years old for showing him that he was not alone and could live a wonderful life. It just took a few years for that lesson to set in. At the time, he was unaware the Camp was affiliated with the Foundation.
After high school, Tony moved to Tampa and started anew, however the old life began to seep back into his psyche as the Great Recession tightened its grip. Tony thought about giving up and living off disability.
“My mindset had changed. I went from an optimist to a pessimist.”
That’s about the time a pharmaceutical rep noticed something was amiss, and referred him to the Foundation.
“That eventually changed my mindset back to what I could actually do,” he says. “Once I got more involved and decided to get back to school, I got into a lot of things that decided my purpose.”
Tony went on to receive his undergrad and graduate degrees from USF in social work and interned at All Children’s Hospital in St Pete and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa. Today, he is back at his alma mater as a highly valuable asset, serves as an advocate for hemophilia and the BDFF, and spends his free time with long-time girlfriend Rosy.
Yes, it appears Tony Brown did indeed find his calling.
DID YOU KNOW THAT 91% OF OUR FUNDRAISING DOLLARS GO BACK TO THE FLORIDA BLEEDING DISORDERS COMMUNITY? THOSE DOLLARS SEND OUR KIDS TO CAMP SPIRIT (WHERE TONY WENT!), PROVIDE FINANCIAL EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE AND SCHOLARSHIPS, AS WELL AS CONTRIBUTE TO EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS AND ADVOCACY EFFORTS. Click here to learn about BDFF fundraising and how you can contribute.