Sickle Cell Disease
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Sickle Cell Disease – The Truth About the Cure #30forSickleCell

In 2008, while reading Hope & Destiny, I first learned that there was a cure for sickle cell disease.  When our blood test confirmed that my husband and I were both carriers of the sickle cell trait, my OBGYN also told me it would be wise for us to sign up for the cord blood registry and bank our twins umbilical cords, just in case we needed the stem cells for a future life-saving procedure. I listened but at the time, I didn’t understand what the information meant. 

Kimberlin, first St. Jude patient to receive a bone marrow transplant. #30forsicklecell

Kimberlin, first St. Jude patient to receive a bone marrow transplant. #30forsicklecell

A Cure for Sickle Cell Disease Does Exist

A few years later, while visiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® I was reminded that St. Jude was the first hospital to use a bone marrow transplant to cure sickle cell disease in 1982.

 The first patient to receive this treatment was Kimberlin, a young  8 years old sickle cell patient. Kimberlin’s parents were told that their daughter may not live much longer, because a test revealed that she also had Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) in addition to sickle cell disease. When the doctors decided to operate and give Kimberlin a bone marrow transplant, the transplant also cured her sickle cell disease. Thankfully, “the bone marrow transplant pushed her cancer into remission, [and it] treated her sickle cell disease. This was the first time that a child with sickle cell disease had ever been cured.”

Watch Kimberlin’s story:

The Largest Sickle Cell Disease Program in the U.S.

As stated in St. Jude Fact’s:

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® has one of the largest sickle cell disease programs in the country, with more than 800 patients. The sickle cell research program at St. Jude is the only one of its kind in the nation focused solely on children.

Pioneering treatments developed at St. Jude are helping more kids – with sickle cell disease, childhood cancer and other deadly diseases – live longer, healthier lives, and no family ever receives a bill for treatment, travel, housing and food, because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.

Stem Cells Transplant and a Cure

If there is a cure, why doesn’t everyone with sickle cell have access to it? Well, it turns out that only about 1 out of 10 people with sickle cell disease has a matching bone marrow donor (Source). 

How does the transplant work? The simplest explanation is on WebMD.com

Stem cell transplants require bone marrow from another person (donor). This is called an allogeneic stem cell transplant.

Before the transplant, bone marrow stem cells are taken from someone who has closely matching bone marrow, usually a healthy brother or sister. The child who has sickle cell disease is then treated with drugs that destroy his or her bone marrow cells. After that, the donated bone marrow stem cells are injected into a vein.

After the process is complete, the donor’s bone marrow begins to replace the recipient’s bone marrow. These new cells restore the immune system and make normal red blood cells.

If there is a cure, why do people still have sickle cell?

There are many factors that also should be mentioned that hinder patients from receiving this treatment option, bone marrow transplants are very expensive, not many hospitals do not perform the procedure, and it’s difficult to find a perfect match. Additionally 5 to 10 people out of 100 receive severe and sometimes fatal complications after the procedure.

Support the St. Jude Sickle Cell Disease program

Donate to St. Jude online: Ways to Help

Donate to St. Jude phone: 800-805-5856

Donate to St. Jude by mail: Printable forms

Questions and concerns: donors@stjude.org 

Donate to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
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References:

Video Clip: Stjude.org. Treating Sickle Cell Disease. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from http://www.stjude.org/stjude/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=9f0b093033ef3410VgnVCM100000290115acRCRD&vgnextchannel=d919093033ef3410VgnVCM100000290115acRCRD&SearchUrl=search_results.jsp&QueryText=Kimberlin

WebMD.com. Stem Cell Transplant for Sickle Cell Disease. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from http://www.webmd.com/cancer/bone-marrow-transplant-for-sickle-cell-disease#zj1620

Infographic provided by St. Jude.

Learn more, check out my #30forSickleCell Posts below:

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