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What is Sickle Cell (SC) ?

Normal blood cells (left) and blood cells in Sickle cell disease, which do not flow through the circulatory system smoothly.

Sickle Cell is a group of inherited conditions that, due to faulty genes, affect the red blood cells - the most serious type is Sickle cell anaemia.

For those with Sickle Cell, their approach on day-to-day life has to be different to many of us.

Sickle Cell got its name through the fact that those who live with this disorder have red blood cells that, instead of being normally disc-shaped, take the shape of a crescent or ‘sickle’. This is because the haemoglobin within these red cells (which carry oxygen around the body) clump together.

The impact of Sickle Cell

In the UK, Sickle cell disease is primarily prevalent in those from an African or Caribbean background. The ‘sickle cell trait’ responsible for SC is present in one in 10 black people In the UK that’s over 200,000 people!

Although it is not a guarantee that a child will be born with Sickle cell, if both parents are carriers of the trait, awareness of this is key to inform dating and reproductive choices.

All pregnant women in England are offered a free screening, this should ideally be carried out before you’re 10 weeks pregnant so prospective parents have time to consider the

option of further tests to find out If a child will be born with SC.

The newborn blood spot test (heel prick test, takes blood from babies heel) is offered to all newborn babies when they are a few days old, it will reveal whether a child has SC or is even just a carrier. This is vital for catching it early.

Although due to a rise in awareness in recent decades and improvements in modern medicine those with Sickle cell can live regular, normal lives there is still a lot a sufferer must consider on a daily basis.

A Day In The LifeImage result for a day in the life

Stay hydrated! wrap up warm! Don’t drink too much!, relax! Sounds like a rant taken straight out of the playbook of mum (well except for maybe relaxing).

For those suffering with Sickle Cell - following such advice can be the difference between a normal day and the experiencing of what is known as sickle cell crises. During a sickle cell crises, the ‘sickle’ shaped red blood cells get stuck in small blood vessels, causing intense pain to occur in the oxygen deprived part of the body lasting anywhere from an hour to a few weeks.

Individuals with SC are also sadly more vulnerable to infections so often have to take a daily dose of penicillin for life while strictly adhering to hygiene standards, always washing hands, making sure food is cooked thoroughly and having all necessary vaccinations.

Treatments

For immediate treatment of a sickle cell crisis over the counter pain medication is advised for sufferers along with with using warm towels or a heated pad to gently massage the affected area.

However the only way to completely treat sickle cell would be via stem cell or bone marrow transplants. however this carries significant risks.

So, Where do you come in?

For sufferers of sickle cell, blood donations are vital to them - they enable those with sickle cell to live a normal day to day, however such patients can’t just receive any blood. Blood that will be transfused into someone must match them by type.

A significant proportion of SC patients have a rare subtype of blood which is known as ’Ro’. This subtype is more than 10 times as common in individuals from a Black African or Black Caribbean background than people from white ethnic backgrounds.

Image result for black Blood donation

The demand for this subtype is on the up, between 2014 and 2016 there was a 75% increase seen in the amount of Ro subtype blood issued to hospitals in England. Give blood NHS state that 40,000 black donors of all blood groups are urgently needed to provide much needed blood donations for patients with sickle cell disease.

The numbers when you look at them are shocking, between 13,000 and 15,000 people in the UK have sickle cell disease yet only 5% of all blood donors are from Black and minority ethnic communities and only 1% are Black.

Patients with Sickle cell need blood that it is exactly matches their type or ‘subtype’ (usually ‘Ro’) The transfusion of similarly matching blood may be okay for a short term but over a long period this can cause complications. That's why....

{WE NEED MORE BLACK DONORS!}

Popular culture TVImage result for Television

A lot of fantastic publicity has already being done on this life changing disorder, the popular BBC drama ‘call the midwife’ recently had an episode depicting a young Ghanaian couple in the UK in the 60s who both possessed the sickle cell trait. They subsequently faced issues surrounding the passing on of the disease to their newly born child. It takes a profound look at the impact sickle cell can have on family situations and how far we have come in terms of awareness.

Date2Donate

A fantastic film series produced by Give Blood NHS invited a collection of social media stars and celebrities all keen to show that giving blood is something we should all embrace it included recently passed well loved rapper Cadet, with star of the chicken shop date Amelia Dimoldenberg and 2018 love Islanders Samira Mighty, Laura Crane and Jack Fowler.

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Ayoola Adeniji

Hey! I am Ayo a 22 year old Psychology graduate from Loughborough University. For me writing is a medium in which you can both inspire and educate people, I aim to widen peoples understanding around the topics of mental health and British politics, whilst also inspiring young readers by sharing all the great achievements that occur regularly in this country.
Ayoola Adeniji
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