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National honor goes to local Sickle Cell Foundation

A century of Sickle Cell research

Trevor K. Thompson

Sickle Cell Disease is celebrating a century of research in the northern hemisphere, however, presently, there is no universal cure. Sickle Cell Disease is an inherited disorder that affects red blood cells. The red blood cells become hard and pointed instead of soft and round, therefore blocking blood flow, causing pain episodes and in some cases, damage to most organs including the spleen, kidney, lung, and liver. The disease has also been identified as the cause of strokes for some individuals.

There are about 2.5 million people in America with Sickle Cell Trait. The trait indicates that one has inherited the gene for sickle cell disease. The Sickle Cell Trait does not later develop into Sickle Cell Disease. However, if someone has the trait and their partner has the Sickle Cell Trait, there is a one in four possibility that they can produce a child with Sickle Cell Disease. Even though Sickle Cell affects prominently African Americans, the disease also affects other ethnic groups.

There are approximately 100,000 documented individuals living with this disease in the United States and approximately 5,000 in the state of Tennessee and the Mid-South. However, very few Sickle Cell consumers are thoroughly educated about the disease, which lends to the inability to recognize that this disease is not an early death sentence. Through medical research, Sickle Cell consumers are living longer with the disease, but some are unaware of research outcomes and/or fear innovative medical treatments.

Additionally, other Sickle Cell consumers live in shame of the disease. The Sickle Cell Foundation of Tennessee (SCFT) is a community based organization that was founded in 2008 to educate the public and Sickle Cell consumers. The SCFT promotes the concept, "live a life worth living" and provides consumers with the resources, materials, and tools to foster interdependence, which ultimately increases education and their quality of life.

The Foundation also works with health care facilities and professionals to eliminate the stigma that most sickle cell consumers are drug seekers.

Additionally, the Foundation works with healthcare professionals to educate them about Sickle Cell Disease and to ensure a more sensitive approach is taken when treating consumers. The Foundation also works in collaboration with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital's Hematology Department to educate the families and the community about Sickle Cell Disease and the Sickle Cell Trait.

The SCFT welcomes your donations to provide comprehensive services and/ or to support its capital campaign. You can also donate blood. According to 2009 Lifeblood data, African Americans used approximately 65 percent of the blood supply; however, only 17.8 percent donated blood in the Mid-South. African American blood donors are the best match for African Americans living with Sickle Cell. Third, support our political efforts by contacting your federal legislators to ensure that the Sickle Cell Treatment Act is reauthorized to provide federal funding for research and social services.

Of all major diseases, Sickle Cell is the least funded by the United States. With your support we can place Sickle Cell on the International Healthcare agenda.

Finally, we want you to support our local fund-raising efforts such as our annual Sickle Cell 5K Run/Walk & Fun (, the Walter Evans Memorial Sickle Cell Golf Tournament sponsored by Pro Duffers South ( and DINNER & DIVAS sponsored by Inner City South.

As we celebrate the centennial of Sickle Cell research, the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tennessee celebrates being selected as the 2010 Sickle Cell Community Based Organization of the year by the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA). Due to successful collaboration with agencies such as St. Jude Children's Hospital, T C Thompson Children's Hospital, and Methodist University Hospital, Tennessee is on its way in becoming the nationwide leader in treating Sickle Cell patients through research, healthcare, and social services.

For more information visit or call 271-5545.

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