Former FSU player holds Sickle Cell symposium to raise awareness, honor brother

By: Lanetra Bennett | WCTV Eyewitness News
April 16, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- The family of an FSU football player who died during practice years ago is now on a mission to save lives.

Devaugn Darling had sickle cell trait, prompting his twin brother to create the As One Foundation, which educates people about the genetic issue.

Devard Darling returned to FSU's campus on Monday to spread awareness, holding the As One Foundation inaugural Sickle Cell Trait Education Symposium.

The brothers found out they had sickle cell trait when they took their physicals as college freshman.

Devaugn died during FSU mat drills in 2001.

Devard recalls that time, saying how intense the drills were back then. He says the old school mentality of "Water makes you weak," was very much prevalent. So, they practiced in intense heat without many breaks.

"That day, Devaughn didn't make it through," Devard said. "It was more that day, 'let's see what this kid has' and they pushed him even harder than we normally do. It was a tough day. That's my biggest fear in losing my twin brother."

The family later learned his death came from complications of the trait.

The symposium consisted of a panel of experts and trait carriers, and educated people on the trait, the complications that come with it, and how to combat it.

"A lot of kids are losing lives and people are dying suddenly and having pains and reactions to sickle cell trait and symptoms of it. It's not being talked about," Devard said. "So, we want to bring more awareness to it."

Sickle cell trait is inherited and can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. Experts say some people with the trait might experience complications of sickle cell disease, such as extreme pain.

Health experts also say dehydration can be one of the most harmful conditions to people with the trait.

After the panel discussion, there was a memorial walk and butterfly release in Devaughn's memory.

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