Most people in the U.S. living with sickle cell disease are of African or Latino descent like my cousin Kenny who died of sickle cell at a young age. I was around 12 when he died. Kenny was older than me, but I don’t think he lived past his 16th birthday.
The year my cousin passed, he was in the hospital often because of sickle cell crises. When I was told of his death, I was shocked and scared because he was always cheerful and full of life whenever I would see him. I never recall visually seeing him in any pain so this was scary.
Sickle cell disease is a genetic blood disorder that affects the red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. This genetic blood disorder distorts soft and round red blood cells and turns them hard and crescent-shaped or “sickle-like”, causing extreme pain and life-threatening complications.
According to the site Curly Nikki, The American Red Cross is conducting outreach campaigns encouraging more BIPOC blood donors.
Sickle cell disease occurs in 1 in every 365 births and about 1 in 13 Black or African American babies in the U.S. are born with sickle cell trait.
Many individuals are unaware if they carry this trait as sickle cell testing at birth was not widely provided until 2006.
R&B artist Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins from the group TLC is a well-known spokesperson for the disease, who was told she wouldn’t live past 30 when she was diagnosed with sickle cell at age 19. She was on her way to stardom and experienced crippling complications while touring throughout the years.
Those living with sickle cell disease will need regular blood transfusions to help manage their disease. But they can only receive blood from