Remember a few months back when black people were all gun ho about helping ALS victims with the “Ice Bucket” challenge? They were dumping cold water on their head and donating money to help cure an illness that impacts a small percentage of overwhelmingly the white community.
Nothing wrong with help people in general, but it becomes a problem to me when we don’t show the same passion, compassion and concern for diseases that impact primarily our community, like sickle cell anemia.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, sickle cell in the United States impacts primarily those of African ancestry or identify themselves as black.
- About 1 in 13 African American babies is born with sickle cell trait.
- About 1 in every 365 black children is born with sickle cell disease.
If there ever was disease that the black community needed to rally against, this would be it. However, we have yet to experience a large scale support for the erradication of this disease by our community….but I digress.
DID YOU KNOW?
Fortunately, this doesn’t mean many in the medical fields haven’t been working tirelessly in an effort to rid the world of this crippling disease.
In fact, on June 18, 2012 the University of Illinois at Chicago (according to the Science Daily) announced a Chicago woman, Ieshea Thomas, as the first Midwest patient to receive a successful stem cell transplant to cure her sickle cell disease without chemotherapy in preparation for the transplant.
University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System physicians performed the procedure using medication to suppress her immune system and one small dose of total body radiation right before the transplant.
The transplant technique is relatively uncommon and is a much more tolerable treatment for patients with aggressive sickle cell disease who often have underlying organ disease and other complications, says Dr. Damiano Rondelli, professor of medicine at UIC, who performed Thomas’s transplant.
The procedure initially allows a patient’s own bone marrow to coexist with that of the donor. Since the patient’s bone marrow is not completely destroyed by chemotherapy or radiation prior to transplant, part of the immune defense survives, lessening the risk of infection. The goal is for the transplanted stem cells to gradually take over the bone marrow’s role to produce red blood cells — normal, healthy ones.