“It feels like someone is ripping me apart… when I move I feel drained and light-headed. The only time I can be at peace is when I’m sleeping,” Nina tells SciJourner.
Nina is 19 years old and has sickle-cell anemia. Because Nina has type A sickle-cell anemia, she has “sickle-cell crisis” during which her body is in pain and she gets really sick with a fever. Nina has to go to the hospital and be there for days, even weeks at a time. She has to miss out on events, such as parties and even school. But she says, “I’m not going to let sickle-cell anemia ruin my life!”
According to the Mayo Clinic, sickle-cell anemia is a disease in which your body produces abnormally shaped red blood cells. Normal red blood cells are flexible and round, and they can move easy through the blood vessel. The sickle cells are shaped like a crescent moon and the hemoglobin protein on the red blood cells with sickle-cells are shaped wrong. This causes pressure on the blood cells, making them turn and change into the new, crescent moon shape.
The irregular shape is the reason why they get stuck in small vessels in the body and block blood and oxygen flow in parts of the body. For this reason sickle cells don't last as long as normal, round red blood cells. This can cause pain and organ damage.
WebMD.com states a genetic problem causes sickle cell anemia. This mishap occurs when two people, each with the sickle-cell genetic trait, pass it onto their baby. For this reason, people with the disease are born with two sickle cell genes, one from each parent.
According to Mayo Clinic, a blood test can show if you have the trait or anemia. Most states test newborn babies as part of their newborn screening programs.
Parents of children that have sickle cell anemia have it hard also. Carmen is a 28-year-old mother with two children that have sickle cell anemia. Her eldest is six years old and has type A sickle-cell anemia and the youngest is 5 years old and has type B.
“Watching my kids go through pain and crying hurts my heart, knowing that I can’t do nothing about it but be there for them and get them whatever they want,” Carmen tells SciJourner. She also thinks having to go to work and leaving them in the hospital by themselves is hard.
Mary Jo Ruether, a biology teacher at Hazelwood East High School in Hazelwood, MO, tells SciJourner that type A sickle-cell anemia is when the person inherits both of the sickle-cell traits from the parents. It is the worst type, because it causes the person to get sick more often. People with type A sickle-cell anemia can suffer from strokes, brain damage and organ damage.
Type B sickle-cell anemia is when the person inherits the trait from only one of the parents. Therefore, they do not have as severe sickle-cell anemia. Type B carriers don’t get as sick, but they still will go through pain, not just as often as type A individuals.
There are a lot of different ways to help and support people dealing with sickle-cell anemia. Those with the disease and their families can go to support groups, like the Sickle-Cells Foundation Support Group Inc., or talk with other families that deal with the same challenges. Pain medicine is not always helpful, because most pain medicines given to sickle-cells anemia people have side effects. According to WebMD.com, you can try hot baths, heating pads, and massages. Love and patience is the biggest support you can give your loved one that deals with sickle-cell anemia.
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