September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month: Teen Relies on Blood Transfusions to Fight the Pain

Tyler Meeks is just 15 years old and has been dealing with sickle cell disease his whole life. About 100,000 people in the United States have sickle cell disease. Most are of African descent. 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 complications can include severe pain, respiratory conditions, organ failure, and even stroke.

Tyler’s mother Tanika takes him to get a blood transfusion every 4 weeks. She says he has been depending on this blood to help him with the painful side effects of living with sickle cell disease for nearly his entire life. There is no substitute for the blood transfusion, it can only be real blood given by volunteer donors that people with sickle cell disease turn to for help during a pain crisis.

Sickle Cell Disease is an inherited blood disorder that is often found at birth. According to the CDC, sickle cell causes the red blood cells in a person’s body to become C-shaped, like a sickle, instead of the normal round shape and blocks the flow of blood. The effects of this are extreme pain to the person and other severe symptoms.

People with sickle cell disease (SCD) start to have signs of the disease during the first year of life, usually around 5 months of age. Symptoms and complications of SCD are different for each person and can range from mild to severe.

The best match for an African-American child with sickle cell disease usually comes from an African-American blood donor and many patients of sickle cell can require multiple transfusions a year throughout their entire life. To minimize complications, it is best for children with sickle cell disease to receive blood that closely matches their own.

“I am so thankful for those who give blood for the sickle cell patients,” Tanika said. She knows that donors to the American Red Cross can designate their blood for sickle cell patients, something she says leaves her “always smiling.”

There is no widely used cure for sickle cell disease. However, the Red Cross supports one of the most critical sickle cell treatments of all – blood transfusions. For many patients, a close blood type match is essential and is found in donors of the same race or similar ethnicity.

Sign up to give blood at an upcoming Red Cross blood drive and make a difference to the patients in need of blood.

Click here to make your next donation appointment.

September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month. Learn more about Sickle Cell Disease here.

September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month: Mom of 2 Dedicates Her Life to Chronic Disease Research

Beverly Chukwudozie of Evanston is a senior researcher at the University of Illinois Chicago, a mother of two, and living with sickle cell disease.

About 100,000 people in the United States have sickle cell disease. Most are of African descent. 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 complications can include severe pain, respiratory conditions, organ failure, and even stroke.

There is no widely used cure for sickle cell disease. However, the Red Cross supports one of the most critical sickle cell treatments of all – blood transfusions. For many patients, a close blood type match is essential and is found in donors of the same race or similar ethnicity.

Beverly credits blood donation to saving her life several times. She says blood donation is “a gift that keeps on giving,” as it helps to alleviate some of the painful symptoms of sickle cell disease. Currently Beverly works at the University of Illinois Cancer Center as a researcher in cancer and health disparities and holds Master’s Degrees in Public Health and Business Administration.

She continues to be an advocate for people with sickle cell disease like her, and encourages others to give blood.

“I am alive today because I could get a transfusion,” she said reflecting on the times blood has helped to save her life and the some 30 transfusions she’s had in her life.

She adds, “Blood transfusion is a life-saving gift, but the receiver does not get an opportunity to thank the giver or share the impact of this precious gift. Thank you to everyone who donates blood, as it is a necessary treatment for many health conditions.”

Sign up to give blood at an upcoming Red Cross blood drive and make a difference to the patients in need of blood.

Click here to make your next donation appointment.

September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month. Learn more about Sickle Cell Disease here.

September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month: Stem Cell Transplant Treatment for Sickle Cell Disease Improve Chicago Man’s Life

Sickle Cell Warrior & Ambassador, Terrance Hill

Courtesy of Sick Cells

Terrance Hill spent the first 37 years of his life Terrance Hill dealing with the effects of sickle cell disease, an inherited blood disorder that 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 complications can include severe pain, respiratory conditions, organ failure, and even stroke- and Terrance had a stroke at just 7 years old. It was severe enough that as a child he had to re-learn how to walk following the stroke event.

Cold weather is often a trigger for the severe pain people with sickle cell disease experience so growing up in Chicago’s harsh winters was a disadvantage for Terrance. When plunged into a pain crisis a blood transfusion was often the choice for doctors’ to help alleviate his pain. Terrance says he has been receiving blood transfusions since that stroke at age 7.

In 2017, Terrance received a bone marrow/stem cell transplant that alleviated most of the symptoms of sickle cell disease, improving his life so much he says he feels “half-cured,” compared to his life before the transplant.

“It’s important for the world to know that Sickle Cell Disease is more than a hindrance that impacts the lifestyle of warriors by presenting oppositions whether we are at home, school, or work which can make the management complex for families and caregivers,” Terrance said. He still works closely with his sickle cell support group where other people with the disease can share and learn from each other’s experiences.

Additionally, Terrance is heavily involved with the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Illinois and works to get sickle cell-related bills amended to improve the lives and care of other sickle cell patients.

There is no widely used cure for sickle cell disease. However, the Red Cross supports one of the most critical sickle cell treatments of all – blood transfusions. For many patients, a close blood type match is essential and is found in donors of the same race or similar ethnicity.

Sign up to give blood at an upcoming Red Cross blood drive and make a difference to the patients in need of blood.

Click here to make your next donation appointment.

September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month. Learn more about Sickle Cell Disease here.

September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month: Mother Who Lost Son to Sickle Cell Works to Keep His Memory Alive

Linda Hubbard and her youngest son, Brax

Linda Hubbard has been dealing with the health effects of Sickle Cell Anemia since 1982 when her son, Brandon, was born. A daughter, Britt, was born with sickle cell trait and her youngest, Brax, also has sickle cell leaving her family completely immersed in living with Sickle Cell Anemia.

Sickle Cell Disease is an inherited blood disorder that is often found at birth. According to the CDC, sickle cell causes the red blood cells in a person’s body to become C-shaped, like a sickle, instead of the normal round shape and blocks the flow of blood. The effects of this are extreme pain to the person and other severe symptoms.

Sadly, Sickle Cell Disease robbed Linda’s son Brandon of his life at just age 27 and her whole family continues to grieve the loss. They decided to do something about the many others still living with Sickle Cell and wanted to do something positive to keep his memory alive and make it so his death not be in vain. Linda established the BranLin Sickle Cell Foundation to help children and families who suffer from the effects of the illness.

Brax and Linda at an event representing their foundation, the “BranLin Sickle Cell Foundation” in honor of Linda’s eldest son, Brandon, who died of complications caused by Sickle Cell Disease

Linda and her family continue the daily battle of what Sickle Cell presents as Brax received regular blood transfusions, something that can help with the “tremendous pain” caused by Sickle Cell Anemia. He has been hospitalized countless times and faces the threat of additional complications like more pain episodes, acute chest syndrome, fevers, jaundice, avascular necrosis, pulmonary hypertension and other symptoms that can shorten life expectancy. Through a clinical trial for gene therapy, Brax has seen improvement to his sickle cell disease and sees hope for the future.

“Help is on the way,” he said.

Linda’s youngest son, Brax, still lives and struggles with Sickle Cell Disease causing many hospital stays and blood transfusions and exchanges

“It is important for us to promote awareness regarding sickle cell since it is a debilitating disease that doesn’t get much research and many people of all ethnicities know nothing about it,” Linda said.

“Although it is the most common inherited disease worldwide, most are clueless of the hardships it presents and loss of life sickle cell is responsible for. I’m always willing to do my share to give sickle cell the attention it deserves.”

Now Linda and her family hopes they can continue to promote awareness and help educate the public about Sickle Cell Disease and ease the burden to other families living with it as well.

Brax says the goal can be summed up in the logo of his mother’s foundation: representing his hand, pulling up his brother’s hand in the fight for his life against Sickle Cell Disease as together they work to support others and ease the challenges of Sickle Cell Disease.

“There’s a lot of darkness when it comes to sickle cell, so I just want to share some light,” said Brax.

There is no widely used cure for sickle cell disease. However, the Red Cross supports one of the most critical sickle cell treatments of all – blood transfusions. For many patients, a close blood type match is essential and is found in donors of the same race or similar ethnicity.

Sickle cell trait is inherited, and many individuals are not aware that they carry this trait. Sickle cell trait is not sickle cell disease and it can never become sickle cell disease. However, health experts recommend that individuals learn their sickle cell trait status and consult their medical provider on what it means for them. It is estimated that about 1 in 13 Black or African American babies in the U.S. is born with sickle cell trait, which means they have inherited the sickle cell gene from one of their parents. Individuals with sickle cell trait are eligible to donate blood. Donations from individuals without the trait may be able to help a patient facing a sickle cell crisis.

Sign up to give blood at an upcoming Red Cross blood drive and make a difference to the patients in need of blood.

Click here to make your next donation appointment.

September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month. Learn more about Sickle Cell Disease here.

September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month: Mom with Sickle Cell Anemia Thrives in Bronzeville

Robin Newsome tries to do it all; she is a mother, a daughter, a friend, a full-time worker in addition to owning her own business and more. On top of all the things she manages, she also fights daily to live with Sickle Cell Anemia; a blood disorder that causes deformed red blood cells in a person’s body and can cause severe, debilitating pain.

Robin’s own mother remembers her as a two-year-old child just crying and crying to the point she was taken to the hospital. As a toddler, Robin was experiencing her first pain crisis and was diagnosed with Sickle Cell disease though today many babies are diagnosed at birth.

Trips to the hospital became a regular part of Robin’s life with sometimes as many as three or four hospital stays a month. This deeply interfered with Robin’s life as a kid and teenager with doctor’s going as far to only give her a life expectancy of about 18 or 19 years old.

Today Robin is in her late forties, defying doctor’s predictions and living her life to the fullest though she still deals with pain and the difficult life that sickle cell presents.

“A lot of people like to say that I’m resilient, strong; a warrior when most times I feel defeated, weak and scared but I try not to complain about the issues that I face…I continue to push through and try to live the life that I can live,” Robin said.

One of the most prominent effects of living with Sickle Cell Disease is feeling extreme pain. Robin says the pain can be located in different parts of her body but is “excruciating.” She also knows her triggers that can cause a pain crisis like cold weather and stress, two things she deals with often living in chilly Chicago and the stresses that come with her everyday life.

One particularly painful memory is her own Sweet 16 birthday party when she was in so much pain she could only watch her friends enjoy her party while laid up on a couch, fighting the pain she was feeling because of Sickle Cell.

Sickle Cell Disease has caused additional complications to her life including acute chest syndrome, pulmonary hypertension, issues with her eyes and more.

For Robin and most people with Sickle Cell Disease, blood transfusions can alleviate some of that pain and help get them out of a crisis. Robin has received many transfusions over the years, even a full body blood exchange when all of her body’s blood was replaced with new blood.

Today, Robin is grateful for a work environment where her supervisors understand her situation and that she has access to the blood transfusions that she credits with saving her life over and over again thanks to volunteer donors who give blood so that it is there on the shelf when she needs it.

“The way blood transfusions have helped me is tremendous. I can feel instant relief when I get one…and I’m just grateful for the people that do donate.”

In the U.S., it is estimated that over 100,000 people have sickle cell disease — most who are of African descent and will require regular blood transfusions to help manage their disease. Beyond Sickle Cell Disease, every two seconds someone in U.S. needs a blood transfusion, from people who experience complicated childbirths, people fighting cancer, and accident victims being raced to emergency rooms.

Robin continues to be thankful for all the blood she has received over the years and how it has helped her manage the pain and the disease.

“Roll up your sleeves and give, it helps not just me but other people who really need it.”

There is no widely used cure for sickle cell disease. However, the Red Cross supports one of the most critical sickle cell treatments of all – blood transfusions. For many patients, a close blood type match is essential and is found in donors of the same race or similar ethnicity.

Sign up to give blood at an upcoming Red Cross blood drive and make a difference to the patients in need of blood.

Click here to make your next donation appointment.

September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month. Learn more about Sickle Cell Disease here.