SICKLE CELL DISEASE

Sickle cell disease is a group of genetic red blood cell disorders. Hemoglobin is the protein within red blood cells that carries oxygen; in those with a sickle cell disorder, that protein is misshaped, causing the red cells to carry less oxygen. These red blood cells also become rigid and shaped like sickles, and the cells can become clogged in the tiny blood vessels of the body, causing symptoms such as pain, swelling, infections, and stroke.

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Peripheral blood smear from a patient with sickle cell anemia. Sickle (crescent moon) cells and target (bullseye) cells are present.

MALIK’S STORY

Malik was diagnosed with sickle cell disease during routine blood screening as a newborn. When his mother, Belinda, heard the diagnosis, she was devastated. “I did not know what to do. I really lost hope,” says Belinda. Malik would be in so much pain, and it was heartbreaking to learn her son would suffer so much in his life.

Belinda did what she does best: research, research and more research. She found an experimental procedure in which sickle cell disease is treated through a familial bone marrow transplant. Malik only had one brother at the time, Michael. Luckily, Michael doesn’t have sickle cell, and so underwent a number of lab tests to determine if he was a match. Luckily for Malik, he was. “Seeing both of my boys undergo procedures at the same time was very hard, but I know it was the only way to save Malik’s life,” says Belinda. Both procedures went well, and Malik was cured. “I can be a normal person again,” says Malik, “and the only pain I have to worry about is if I stub my toe.”

malik-story
Malik was born with Sickle Cell Disease, but thanks to a bone marrow transplant from his younger brother Michael, Malik is now cured.