Growing from a dull numbing and quickly jumping to an excruciating pain, it feels as though your flesh is being torn open, and a vice grip is crushing the bone. That is how David Hill describes his battle with sickle cell disease. Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disease that affects more than 70,000 African Americans. It causes red blood cells to become deformed, preventing them from passing through small blood vessels, which inhibits the oxygen from efficiently traveling through the body.
Hill, a Klein Forest High School teacher, needs to pay more attention to his body’s needs than the average American.
“I have to constantly stay aware of the condition my body is in. I have to monitor the color of my fluid excretions to aid in normalizing the hydration of my body,” Hill says.
Sickle cell originated in Africa and the Indian/Saudi Arabian subcontinents, but it is most common in West and Central Africa. In the United States alone, approximately 1,000 babies are born with sickle cell each year.
Texas Children’s Hospital has treated sickle cell for more than 40 years and has one of the largest pediatric programs for it in the country. Since 1983, more than 2,000 Texas children have been diagnosed with sickle cell disease, according to the website. Although approximately eight of every 100,000 people develop sickle cell, it is more prevalent in certain populations. It affects one in every 400 African Americans and one in every 1,200 Hispanic Americans.
For hope and fellowship among victims of this painful disease, Texas Children’s Hospital’s Sickle Cell Center offers a five-day residential summer camp, “Camp SKY” (Sickle Cell Kids and Youth) for children between the ages of six and 13. For more information about Texas Children’s Sickle Cell Clinic or their camp, visit www.texaschildrenshospital.org.
The Sickle Cell Association of the Texas Gulf Coast is also dedicated to easing the pain of those stricken with this disease. Helping adults battling the disease, this non-profit group helps through sickle cell education, counseling, psychosocial services and summer camps. The association is designed to improve the lives of individuals with the sickling gene and related conditions. For more information about SCA and other services, go on-line and visit www.unitedwayhouston.org. Sickle cell is not a disease that is seen externally, but it is an extremely painful one. “It limits the number of activities that a person may participate in. Many times people believe that a sickle cell patient may be using it as an excuse,” Hill says. There is no cure for people with sickle cell disease; however, there is new research being developed.
“Stem cells have been discussed in preventing the disease in future generations,” Hill says optimistically. H
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