A Sickled History
Many people may be wondering “what is Sickle Cell?” Sickle Cell is a genetic blood disease that affects about 70,000 Americans. It originated in Africa and spread with the migration of the people. Sickle Cell is not contagious in anyway it is strictly a genetic disease, meaning that someone in your family has to have either the trait or disease in order for you to be eligible to have it. Many people wonder “why is it called Sickle Cell?” well that’s because instead of our red blood cells being shaped like cream filled donuts they are shaped like sickles or crescent moons, hints the name Sickle Cell.
In order to really understand the struggle that people with Sickle Cell have you have to understand the history. Sickle Cell was discovered in 1910 by Dr. James Herrick when he was working in the Caribbeans. From that point on more cases of Sickle Cell started to appear in different places. During that era many doctors were baffled and confused on how to treat it. It was like nothing they had ever seen before. Doctors started to do test and record their finding on this new disease. However with no medicine to help the patients many of them died due to complications. It wasn’t until the late 1900’s early 2000’s that medicine for Sickle Cell was effective. In the early 2000’s many babies born with Sickle Cell did not live to the age of two. That being said there were a lot of trial and error with medications and many deaths due to failed medical test. lucky around 2002 a medicine called Penicillin was prescribed to kids with Sickle Cell. Penicillin is an antibiotic produced naturally. Penicillin was used to fight off harmful infections in the bloodstream. Kids ranging from the ages 2-3 months to 5 years old were prescribed the medicine, until their doctor told them to stop taking it.
In the recent years many advancements have been made to treating Sickle Cell. One of the most helpful advancements was the medicine Hydroxyurea being prescribed to Sickle Cell patients. Hydroxyurea helps the red blood cells stay round and flexible instead of their sickled form. When patients take Hydroxyurea it decreases their risk of a pain crisis. It can also decrease the risk of complications in organs such as the heart, spleen and the kidneys, which has also decreased the number of deaths in the Sickle Cell community. Even the simplest of advancements like learning about Sickle Cell has saved lives. Many people who know about Sickle Cell also know about the trait. The Sickle Cell Trait is the genetic code for Sickle Cell. So let’s think about this. If someone with Sickle Cell disease has a child with someone who has no trace of Sickle Cell, their child has a 50% chance of getting Sickle Cell. Already the risk is pretty high with just the disease. Now imagine if someone with the Sickle Cell Trait has a child with someone who has no trace of Sickle Cell, their child has a 75% chance of having Sickle Cell. That’s why many people get tested for the Trait before they start their families since already a shocking number of 2.5 million people in the U.S have the Sickle Cell Trait, it is smart to know if you or your partner has the Trait before you guys decide to go any further.
In closing I would like to ask you, what can you do to help?