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Life With Sickle

Patty Sawyer is no stranger to sickle cell anemia.

Patty says, "When we first found out she had it she was a year and a half old. She had her first transfusion when she was seven."

Her experiences with the disease inspired the series of clinics that will raise awareness and bring local health care for a disease she says is often overlooked.

Sawyer adds, "I'm not doing it for me or anything else. I'm doing it because of the need that's here. The need is what I'm looking at."

Sickle cell advocates say this series of clinics is a step in the right direction to hopefully getting a comprehensive clinic for people who suffer from sickle cell here in Valdosta and Lowndes County, and plans are already underway to make the comprehensive treatment center a reality.

Sawyer says, "As soon as I get everything lined up it will happen. I'm looking at possibly January to start my fundraising campaign for sickle cell if everything goes okay."

Patients of the clinic will be seen by a doctor that specializes in the disease. Free testing for sickle cell anemia is also available for folks who haven't been tested before. The next scheduled clinic will be in October.

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Sickle Cell Anemia

  • Sickle cell anemia causes the red blood cells to make abnormal hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the part of blood that carries oxygen in the body. There are different kinds of sickle cell disease. Some kinds are mild, but others cause serious illness.

  • Sickle cell anemia is an inherited disease.

  • Sickle cell anemia is most common in people whose ancestors came from Africa, Central America (especially Panama), South America, Caribbean nations, Mediterranean countries, India or Near Eastern countries.

  • When the red blood cells of people with sickle cell disease don't get enough oxygen, these cells change shape. They become longer and curved. Some people think they look like the blade of a cutting tool called a "sickle."

  • Sickle cells can get stuck in blood vessels and keep blood from reaching parts of the body. This causes pain and can damage the body's internal organs.

  • Blocked blood vessels in the arms, legs, chest or abdomen can cause strong pain. Children with sickle cell disease might get more infections because their spleen is damaged by sickle cells. (One of the spleen's main jobs is to protect against infection.)

Symptoms

  • Swollen hands or feet
  • Sudden paleness of the skin or nail beds
  • Yellow color of the skin or eyes
  • Fever or signs of infection
  • Swelling in the abdomen
  • Sudden tiredness with no interest in what is going on
  • Erection of the penis that won't go away
  • Trouble hearing or seeing
  • Weakness on one side of the body or a sudden change in speech
  • Headache
  • Trouble breathing
  • Joint, stomach, chest or muscle pain, or limping

Treatments

  • Antibiotics
  • Vitamins like folic acid, helps the body replace damaged cells.
  • Special shots
  • Blood transfusions
  • Possible bone marrow transplants

Source: www.nih.org (National Institute of Health Web site) contributed to this report.


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