By LaKeshia N. Myers
September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month. Every September, people living with sickle cell disease, their caregivers, advocates, healthcare providers, and others come together to bring awareness to the disease and dispel the myths and stigmas surrounding it. The month also brings attention to the ongoing need for research, better care practices, new treatments, and an eventual cure.
Sickle cell is one of the most common inherited blood disorders in United States. The disease affects approximately 100,000 Americans. While sickle cell can affect anyone, it is widely associated with people of color. One out of every 365 Black or African American babies are born with sickle cell disease. Conversely, one out of every 16,300 Hispanic-American babies are born with sickle cell disease. About one in thirteen Black or African American babies are born with sickle cell trait.
The sickle cell trait–red blood cells are disc-shaped and flexible enough to move easily through the blood vessels. If you have sickle cell disease, your red blood cells are crescent- or “sickle”-shaped. These cells do not bend or move easily and can block blood flow to the rest of your body. The blocked blood flow through the body can lead to serious problems, including stroke, eye problems, infections, and chronic pain.
Patients with this disease can experience severe pain and often require blood transfusions as a form of treatment, sometimes every three to four weeks. This is where the public can help—we need more individuals to sign up to donate blood. Regular blood donation helps hospitals and clinics treat individuals with sickle cell and other diseases have a better quality of life.
I encourage everyone in our community to commit to at least three blood donations; as one pint of blood can save three lives. To make a blood donation appointment, please call 877-BE-A-HERO or visit www.Versiti.org. Be a hero and donate blood.