The University of Memphis Department of Communication and Film will host a luncheon Oct. 1 at the University Center in the Beale room for students and faculty members on Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Day to raise the awareness of those living with the chronic disease in Shelby County.
Communication and Film associate professor Amanda Young said the best way to raise awareness on campus is to have different events so specialists and actual people with the trait for sickle cell can have their voices heard.
“People in different health fields could talk more about sickle as a major health problem in Shelby County,” Young said. “People in political science and sociology could talk more about how it affects families.”
Sickle cell disease is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. Unlike healthy red blood cells that are round, sickle cells are formed in the shape of a “scythe sickle” and contribute to a shortage of red blood cells. The disease can cause acute chest syndrome and strokes.
Young said sickle cell does not show through physical appearance, which has some wondering about the level of the pain they are enduring.
“With sickle cell disease, there’s no physical evidence of the pain,” Young said. “Historically and still to this day, a lot of people doubt a person with sickle cell when they talk about the degree of pain they’re in.”
The American Society of Hematology reports approximately 70,000 to 100,000 Americans have been diagnosed with sickle cell disease. Sickle cell is more common in ethnic groups, with 8% of African Americans inheriting the disorder.
Teaching all learners major Faythe McIentosh said research is one way to spread awareness about the generally unheard-of disease.
“A lot of people really don’t know what sickle cell is and even know if it runs in their family,” McIentosh said. “Becoming more knowledgeable and then going to the doctor and getting checked to see if you’re a carrier or not is the best way to go.”
McIentosh said knowledge of the disease is rare because it only affects small minority groups.
“Because the disease is prominent in African Americans, and we’re not aware of it ourselves, how can anyone else be aware?” McIentosh said. “It only affects mostly one type of people and if they’re not knowledgeable about it, how would it become known if no one talks about it.”
Sickle cell can be cured for certain people through a bone marrow transplant. A bone marrow transplant expert can advise patients if it’s the best idea for them.
Finance major Pheyllis Durr said talking about it and doing research would help most people realize how dangerous it is.
“They don’t realize how hard it is on people, black people especially,” Durr said. “Just talk about it, spread it and be open to someone who wants to discuss it.”
Durr said the reason some people are afraid to discuss sickle cell is the topic of death.
“A lot of people think that if they have sickle cell, death will follow it,” Durr said. “Nowadays they have medicine that can help you live longer but back then in the past they didn’t, and the average life expectancy was 24 years old.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 95% of all newborns diagnosed with sickle cell in the United States will reach adulthood.
Health science major Destiny Heard said sickle cell is underreported because of its lower death toll in relation to other diseases.
“Cancer is talked about so much because so many people die from cancer every day,” Heard said. “That is sad because people should be aware of any diseases that cause death.”
Heard gave advice to those dealing with sickle cell to remain in good health.
“My advice to someone living with sickle cell would be to stay strong, eat right, drink plenty of fluids, get enough sleep and take your medicine,” Heard said.