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Tuesday is World Sickle Cell Awareness Day

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 18 Jun 2012 05:09pm | comments

More than 2-thousand Mississippians are living with sickle cell disease. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports the goal Sickle Cell awareness day is to encourage people to get tested and donate blood.

Willie Brown is now 64-years old but he started having pain from an unknown disease as a child.

"I couldn't hardly walk or crawl. They didn't know anything about sickle cell then. They just thought it was something else. One doctor said I wouldn't live to be 16 years old," Brown said.

Brown says he lived with near constant pain until he was finally diagnosed as a teenager with Sickle Cell Anemia, a blood disorder that causes some red blood cells to be malformed.

The disorder can cause debilitating pain crisis that Brown says puts him in the hospital four or five times a year.

"Somebody said it is like going outside, putting your hand in a door and slamming it a bunch of times. That is how feels because you be in pain. I couldn't even put my clothes or my pants on. Somebody would have to help me dress. Sometimes it gets like that now. Can't even lift or put my own clothes on," Brown said.

For some, the pain can last for days or even weeks.

Natasha James of Terry says her 12-year old daughter has sickle cell and sometimes spends three weeks in the hospital waiting for the pain to pass.

"She describes it sometimes as somebody hitting her with a sledge hammer. Somebody stabbing her with a knife. Or it feels like a lot of pins are sticking her or something like that," James said.

Every year about 50 children in Mississippi, generally African-American children, are born with the genetic disease.

The trait could be an evolutionary genetic hold over that helped early humans survive malaria says Dr. Tim Quinn.

"Individuals over in Africa and the countries that are very prevalent with malaria infection, those whose are the sickle cell carriers had a higher survival rate and were more likely to reproduce. And this has been the reason cited for the high prevalence in the African-American race," Quinn said.

For a small group of people a bone marrow transplant can cure the disorder....but for the most the only option is to deal with a crisis and treat the pain.

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