September is Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month and a time when African Americans shift their attention toward a way they can help those who have been plagued with the illness.
Sickle cell anemia is a disease that causes red blood cells to form an abnormal shape, similar to a crescent as opposed to the normal disc shape. An abnormal type of hemoglobin called hemoglobin S sparks the disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, sickle cell affects 1 out of every 500 African Americans and more than 2 million Americans are currently living with the disease.
Considering the number of African Americans affected by the disease and the low number of donors who are helping to assists those in need, September is the perfect time to give blood to give another person life.
Although sickle cell is also prevalent in the Latino, Asian and Middle Eastern community, its presence is felt far more in the Black community.
The disease causes red blood cells to die earlier than a healthy person’s, in addition to causing anemia and blocking oxygen to the body’s tissue.
The disease is inherited from both parents and symptoms usually don’t occur until after the age of 4 months. Symptoms may include fatigue, paleness, rapid heart rate, shortness of breath and yellowing of the eyes and skin.
Also, children who are affected by the disease have been known to experience abdominal pains.
Doctors have been puzzled for years over the disease, being forced to manage and control the symptoms while searching for a cure. Patients are required to go through ongoing treatment to live a healthier life, going through blood transfusions, taking pain medicines and having to drink plenty of fluids.
Celebrities that are plagued with the disease have come out in the past in support of efforts to develop a cure, including Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins of the group TLC.
Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark recently teamed up with a Pittsburgh hospital to help raise awareness for the disease, launching “Cure League,” which focuses on education, donations and support that will contribute to finding a cure.
Former NFL linebacker and founder of the Lydia W. Smith Foundation and J. Zemar Premium Brand, Robert Mackey III, recently hosted a VIP event at the Conrad Chicago to benefit the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Illinois.
“It’s important to me because I have at least two dear relatives who are both living with sickle cell,” said Lamman Rucker, whose natural bath and body care line, forplai, sponsored the event. “I’m aware of the physical, emotional and financial challenges they face and want to do whatever I can to help.”
Those who are interested in donating blood for sickle cell patients can contact the American Red Cross or LifeSource, Chicagoland’s Blood Center to schedule an appointment.
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