National Sickle Cell Awareness Day: Helping East Texans understand the disease



Thousands of people in the U.S. have sickle cell disease. Most of them are African Americans. It’s a common disease that can be life threatening, yet, many don’t know much about it.

“I just want to make sure that we can get the word out here in Tyler that this disease needs to be known about,” Patricia Henry, with the African American Cultural Events Committee.

If your not familiar with the disease, it causes red blood cells to look like a crescent moon shape. The cells clog vessels. not allowing oxygen to flow to essential organs in the body.

“It can effect them physically and it’s hard on the family of course, because they are care givers, but to understand this illness you have to be close to someone with sickle cell,” explains Henry.

To spread awareness, the African American Cultural Events Committee held its second annual balloon release in Woldert Park in Tyler, to show how this community is standing by those who are struggling with the condition.

“We want to encourage those who are here continuing fighting. Their warriors and they need to know that we’re encouraging them to keep on with the good fight,” says Henry.

According to the CDC, 1 in 13 African American children is born with the sickle cell trait. Meaning you could have it, and just not know it.

“One of my really good friends, she has sickle cell, and she just had a baby, and it was so tough for her,” says Whitney Rockwell, with UT Health Tyler.

Rockwell says with so many people carrying the trait, she often sees not enough people keeping up with their health.

“We as a community, we hear about it, we talk about it, but we’re not really about it. We need to be proactive instead of re-active,” says Rockwell.

The organization is hoping to help those who continue to suffer from the disease.

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