Were you aware that June 19th is World Sickle Cell Awareness Day? In fact, June 19th has been set aside as World Sickle Cell Awareness Day for more than a decade. Beginning in 2008, World Sickle Cell Awareness Day has been observed on a yearly basis in order to help boost the general public’s fund of knowledge and increase awareness of Sickle Cell Disease (SCD).
In addition, the World Sickle Cell Awareness Day observance brings some much needed attention to the painful, time-consuming battles that the afflicted people and their loved ones go through on a regular basis. SCD affects millions of individuals globally, including both adults and children. In the United States, nearly 100,000 individuals are afflicted with SCD.
SCD, the most prevalent form of a genetically inherited blood disorder that causes the shape of red blood cells to be abnormally crescent-shaped like a sickle, is a potentially lethal disease process. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), SCD is one of the leading causes of early death among children under the age of five in multiple African countries.
Healthy people who are not affected by SCD have normal, round, dome-shaped red blood cells that possess enough flexibility to move swiftly across small blood vessels without causing blockages. The abnormal hemoglobin that characterizes SCD leads to sickle ‘C’-shaped red blood cells. Sickle-shaped cells are inflexible and often become stuck in small blood vessels, resulting in occluded blood flow, blood clots, chronic pain and infections.
The blood clots that form in the bodies of people with SCD can lead to horrendous pain in many areas such as the hands, feet and trunk. The occluded blood flow can also result in damage to the bones, muscles and organs (WHO, 2017). SCD sufferers frequently have fatigue, weakness, tiredness and pallor. They sometimes seem to have a pale or ashen appearance and the whites of their eyes and skin often have a yellowish undertone.
To observe World Sickle Cell Awareness Day, people can use the hashtags #ConquerSCD!, #WorldSCDawarenessDay and #WorldSCDay to spread awareness about the burdens of sickle cell disease on social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. People can also visit local a children’s hospital due to the reality they may encounter one or more chronically ill children who have been hospitalized because of SCD.
World Health Organization. (2017). Sickle Cell Disease. Retrieved June 10, 2019, from https://www.afro.who.int/health-topics/sickle-cell-disease