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Spreading the Word on Sickle Cell Disease

By: Johnicia Haynes

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." - Nelson Mandela

In honor of Black History Month, and the enduring legacy of the African American experience, the Red Cross wishes to raise awareness of a daunting illness that affects many members of the Black community. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Sickle Cell Disease is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. The disease can be diagnosed at birth with a simple blood test and is strongly recommended.

I recently spoke with Ms. Delilah Jackson, Mississippi resident, mother of 2, and grandmother of 1, living with the daily effects of Sickle Cell Anemia, about living with the disease: “No one understands. It’s really hard. I never know how I will feel.” She explains at first sight, many people with her condition do not appear to have a life-threatening illness. That is what makes it harder for our community. She says, “We need more individuals to learn about sickle cell”.

Ms. Jackson deals with many health complications, as a result of Sickle Cell Anemia. She has had two hip replacements due to the disease-causing severe weakness in her bones. When frequent sickle cell pain crisis, she says, “It feels like getting beat with a hammer in the same spot.” The excruciating pain has resulted in falling, continued hip pain, fatigue, and weakness, resulting often in the use of assistive devices, such as a walker, electric carts, and crutches to move.

Not only does Ms. Jackson experience severe pain, but she also requires multiple hospital stays every year, while receiving numerous blood transfusions. In the face of her fight with the disease, Ms. Jackson offers important advice to others living with Sickle Cell Disease and the community most affected by sickle-cell disease.

Her advice: “Try to make the most of it [life]. Have something that you are passionate about and love to do, that is a part of your purpose. Take it day by day.” As part of finding purpose, Ms. Jackson has written a book entitled Purpose Kept Me Alive. Released in 2020, the Jackson shares that it was written as a testament of her faith, in the face of adversity.

In order to help those who vitally need our support, Ms. Jackson also encourages, “If people are able, donate blood”.

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