When 13-year-old Emaree Pirtle was diagnosed with sickle cell disease as a young child, it was discovered that both of her parents carried the sickle cell trait.
Sickle cell disease affects red blood cells, making them hard and “sickle” shaped instead of soft and round. As a result of the disease, blood has difficulty flowing smoothly and carrying oxygen to the rest of the body.
In the U.S., about 100,000 people have sickle cell disease—of whom 90 percent are of African descent. A patient in need is more likely to find a compatible blood match from a donor of the same race or ethnic group, making diverse donor pools so important.
Blood transfusions are a known treatment for people living with sickle cell, because they help increase the number of normal red blood cells in the body. Blood transfusions also reduce the risk of some complications.
Two years ago, Emaree received a bone marrow transplant from her sister. Emaree went from being in constant pain to being able to enjoy the activities she loves, like swimming and playing in her backyard.
“It is a blessing to see how far Emaree has come, and I am thankful she is doing well now,” says Carolyn Pirtle, Emaree’s grandmother.
In September, which is National Sickle Cell Awareness Month, the Red Cross teamed up with the NAACP Decatur Chapter for a diversity blood drive. Emaree was the special guest and shared her story with WAND-TV to bring awareness to sickle cell and the importance of blood donations to help people living with the illness.
To help people like Emaree, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS to schedule an appointment to donate.
Written by Communications & Marketing Intern, Doreen Fosco