As part of Sickle Cell Awareness month, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, a vocalist in the Grammy Award-winning trio TLC and spokesperson for the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA), is coming to Oakland’s Love Center Church, 10440 International Blvd., on Sunday, Sept. 5 at 4 p.m.
“This will be the kick off of this program that will target highly
African American populated cities and Historically Black Colleges and
Universities throughout the country where the disease is prevalent, said
Watkins, who established “I Wanna Be Free,” a community service initiative and national public awareness campaign that targets youth between the ages of 12-18 who are afflicted by sickle cell anemia.
For African Americans, this is much more than a blood disease – sickle cell anemia has become a cultural, social
issue and concern, occurring in about one out of every 500 African
American births and 1 out of every 36,000 Hispanic American births.
It is estimated that 70,000 to 100,000 people have sickle cell and that 2
million carry the trait that allows them to pass it on to offspring.
The disease causes red blood cells to change shape and become sticky,
giving them the potential to tangle like coat hangers and clog blood
vessels. This blockage, depending on where it occurs in the body, can
cause tissue damage, pain and stroke. Symptoms can range from very mild
to severe and vary widely from person to person.
Common symptoms include fatigue, paleness, jaundice, shortness of breath
and pain in the body organs and joints. Without the proper care, sickle
cell can lead to even more serious medical problems, such as damage to
most organs, and ultimately, death.
That’s why it is important for people with the disease to receive
consistent medical care throughout life and to work with their
physicians on a proper treatment plan. There is no cure for sickle cell
disease. Treatment is aimed at managing psychological, emotional and
physical concerns and improving a person’s quality of life.
Youth with sickle cell anemia face self esteem issues connected to
missed school days, limited social activities and ongoing emergency room and hospital visits.
By Jesse Brooks