UPSTATE, S.C. (WSPA) – September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month, and the goal is to shed light on a disease that has impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans.
Sickle Cell Disease is a genetic disease that affects mainly African Americans and latino populations.
The chronic disease is discovered and diagnosed at birth, or very early in life, and progresses over time.
According to the CDC, Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) affects millions of people around the world and around 100,000 Americans. Data shows that SCD occurs in 1 out of every 365 African American newborns.
“Individuals with Sickle Cell Disease don’t have typical shapes of their red blood cells they have sickle shapes,” Dr.Hal Crosswell, director of AYA Cancer Care and Blood Disorders Program at Bon Secours, said.
When red blood cells are sickle-shaped they tend to randomly interlock and create a blockage in the bloodstream which results in intense pain.
The lack of healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen typically causes anemia.
Samuel Cooke, a Greenville native, was diagnosed with Sickle Cell Disease as a newborn in 1986 and has been receiving treatment ever since.
“There’s a picture here of me in 1986 at this very same hospital. I was going through a crisis but in the picture I’m happy and I’m blowing bubbles,” Cooke said, “It has impacted me from that young until now.”
Dr. Alan Anderson M.D., medical director of the Comprehensive Sickle Cell Disease Program at Prisma Health, said doctors are currently treating around 450 patients with Sickle Cell Anemia from 15 different counties in the state of South Carolina.
“We’re trying to provide a medical home where anyone with Sickle Cell Disease who’s having complications can come here and we can help to deal with those,” Dr.Anderson said, “Historically, a lot of patients have not had a good medical home. They just went to emergency departments or hospitals.”
Local advocates and patients with sickle cell disease in the upstate are raising awareness through events and fundraisers.
While pain may come from the disease, Cooke said it doesn’t stand a chance against those who are determined to not let this disease take control.
“We all have limitations, but you can do great things. It needs not to be something that holds you back from anything. Go for it,” Cooke said.
Congress decided to establish this month as Sickle Cell Awareness Month because there’s still an increased need for more research and treatment for Sickle Cell Disease.
For more information about Sickle Cell Disease, click here.