Sickle Cell Disease: What You Should Know
As September grinds to a halt (flew right on by), I’d like to take a moment to digress from my usual fanfare to discuss a topic close to my heart: Sickle cell disease. Two of my siblings have this serious disorder which produces abnormal red blood cells that stick to blood vessels resulting in a lack of oxygen absorption and excruciating pain.
Despite September being the official awareness month and June 19th marking the UN-recognized World Sickle Cell Day, very little is known about the disease. So I’d like to do my bit to rectify that situation by sharing facts that might be surprising but also encouraging.
Can’t Catch It
While sickle cell disease is a hereditary condition, you have to be born with it. To have it, both parents need to possess a specific trait. Even then, children only have a 25% chance of inheriting the disease. People with SCD have special needs including drinking water and going to the bathroom more often than average and staying indoors during extreme hot or cold weather conditions. So yes, this disease does require some extra care, but it’s not contagious people! So feel free to approach for a chat, you’ll make a new friend.
Not a Death Sentence
Just two decades ago, the average SCD patient didn’t make it past childhood. Today, thanks to advances in medicine people can live longer, more productive lives. I should know. I have a hard time keeping up with my siblings half the time and I’m supposed to be the “healthy” one! My sister is always on the move, she has a daughter Alexandra who is 8 years old, a business and still manages to be the control centre & conflict manager for the family. Everything goes through Cynthia. She like many other SCD fighters have become doctors without diplomas.
What is always needed are more minority blood and bone marrow donors, a process that takes minutes but can keep someone with this illness alive and kicking for years to come.
Celebrity advocates for the disease include British model Jourdan Dunn and the American rapper Prodigy both of whom belong to their respective awareness societies and routinely speak publically about their struggles with the disease.
We Are the World
Though people of African origin are reportedly the most affected, those of any race are at risk. Increasingly, it has been found in Hispanics, Mediterranean Europeans and Middle Easterns. In fact, SCD is the most common genetic disease on the planet. Shocked? Don’t be. We all really need to do our part to understand this disease and help those who have it, likely someone you know.