About 100,000 people in the United States have Sickle Cell disease. 15-year-old, Eric Boone Jr., is one of them. He’s lived with the disease since he was a young boy.
“I found out, prior to him being born, that my husband also had the trait,” says Tereka Boone, Eric’s mom. ” I knew I had the trait, but it was a conversation that he and I never had. And so, when Eric Jr. was born, they did the screening and they did all of the blood work, and they told us that he did have sickle cell.”
It is estimated that about 1 in 13 Black or African American babies in the U.S. is born with the sickle cell trait, which means they have inherited the sickle cell gene from one of their parents. The disease causes red blood cells to harden and form a C-shape (like a sickle). When hardened, the cells can get caught in blood vessels and cause serious complications for patients. These include severe pain, respiratory conditions, organ failure, and even stroke. Eric’s life with sickle cell has included many blood transfusions, major surgeries and medications.
“We have cried sleepless nights and we have walked the floors,” Eric’s father says. “He has no idea how many times we have walked into that room, and we just went to God in prayer for him, just wanted God to give him life. Every birthday is a blessing in my eyes because a lot of people don’t make it to see this age.”
The Boones continue to advocate and raise awareness for the need for diverse blood donations for sickle cell patients like Eric Jr. They’ve held several blood drives with the Red Cross in Gary, Indiana to encourage others to give. Blood transfused to patients with rare blood types, like those with sickle cell disease, must be matched very closely to reduce the risk of complications, and these patients are more likely to find a compatible blood match from a blood donor of the same race or similar ethnicity.
Eric Jr. says the generosity of others has allowed him to be a normal kid.
“I love baseball, basketball, I watch sports, and I love spending time with my family,” he says. “Life as a sickle cell patient can be painful, but you can get through it. You’re given this gift of blood that gives you life. I’m grateful, and I encourage you and motivate you to give, because you never know if you’re going to need it one day.”
While there is currently no widely used cure for sickle cell disease, your blood donation could be what patients with sickle cell disease need to treat their condition. We encourage diverse blood donors who are healthy and feeling well to schedule an appointment to donate at www.redcrossblood.org.
Written by Hannah Allton, Regional Communications Manager