(NAPSI) – If you or someone you care about is among the approximately 100,000 Americans with sickle cell disease, here is information that may be important:
The story of one man
Chris Raffin Jr. never knows when he will feel severe pain. Since birth, Rafin has had sickle cell disease, an inherited disease that causes severe pain when red blood cells become hard, crescent-shaped, and have difficulty carrying oxygen to other parts of the body.
“It’s like having a Charlie horse,” Rafin said. “It’s just a throbbing pain to such an extent that you can hardly walk. Your whole body seems to hurt, but there’s nothing you can do about it. “
The pain can strike at any moment. Sickle-cell pain crises can suddenly occur in the back, knees, legs, arms, chest or abdomen and last from a few hours to several days.
What can be done
After a stroke at six years due to complications of the disease, Rafin began receiving monthly blood transfusions to prevent further complications. In 22 years, he has received more than 3,130 units of blood through monthly erythrocyte exchange.
People with sickle cell disease may need frequent blood transfusions throughout their lives – they need up to 100 units of blood each year – to treat complications of the disease. Unfortunately, frequent transfusions can make finding compatible blood types even more difficult if patients develop an immune response against donor blood that does not match the recipient’s blood.
That’s why on World Sickle Cell Day, June 19, the American Red Cross wants to raise awareness about sickle cell disease and the challenges patients face when battling chronic disease.
Through its Sickle Cell Initiative, the Red Cross has expanded donor blood tests to include a sickle cell system survey of all donations from self-identified African-American donors. This additional screening helps the Red Cross more quickly identify compatible blood types for patients with sickle cell shape.
Raffin, an Emmy Award-winning senior news producer, sees a strong support system, good doctors, generous blood donors, and consistent nutrition, exercise and rest as key factors for his success with sickle cell work.
“I didn’t always know how important blood was,” Rafin said. “Based on the one hour it takes to donate blood, someone like me can live years longer and live a full life.”
How can you help
Appropriate individuals who are feeling well may make an appointment for a blood donation by visiting RedCrossBlood.org/OurBloodvia the Red Cross app for blood donors or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.