In September of 2014, I started a segment on Cleverly Changing entitled “30 for Sickle Cell.” My goal was to help raise awareness about knowing your Sickle Cell Trait status and why it is extremely important.
One of my long-term missions on Cleverly Changing is to help future parents and all people in general, desire to take charge of their health and be proactive about what their body needs to make sure that they can live their best life. Many nationalities have genetic markers that they may cause health issues. These issues can even seriously affect a person’s life.
Unfortunately, one of the most common genetic disorders in America is all too easily ignored until we see and hear of a tragic fatality that led to someone’s early death. Although old age isn’t guaranteed to anyone, there are genetic precursors that we need to be aware of that can affect our lives.
Today, I am thinking of the young college basketball star Shanice Clark. Originally, news outlets reported that the young California University of Pennsylvania Student died in her sleep from aspirating on chewing gum. However, the Corner’s report has ruled that Ms. Clark died from complications from Sickle Cell Trait.
On Sept. 25, 2006, Dale Lloyd II, 19 collapsed dead on a field in Texas after overexertion in practice. A lawsuit from Lloyd’s family spurred the NCAA to test athletes for Sickle Cell Trait. Only one year later, in 2007 Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark almost died after suffering from Sickle Cell Trait complications after practice. What’s amazing, is that over 28 years ago the military found a connection between Sickle Cell Trait and cardiac death. There is also a U.S. Sudden Death in Athletes Registry, which shows
There is “convincing evidence of a causal relationship between the sickle cell trait and the deaths of young, black competitive athletes, especially football players,” says the study’s senior author Barry J. Maron, MD, director of the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation. The study will be published in the October edition of the American Journal of Cardiology, but currently is available online. (Source)
What’s the danger of the trait?
The sickle cell trait poses a threat carriers when they are extremely exhausted or dehydrated. Although the person doesn’t officially have Sickle Cell Disease, in high altitudes, extreme weather temperatures, and after too much exercise, carriers of the trait need to be very careful because the complications can be fatal.
The importance of sharing news about the sickle cell trait really hits home for me because, I did not learn that I was a carrier of the sickle cell trait until I was 26 years old. I am not an athlete, but I try to stay healthy by exercising. When I lived in Denver, CO “the mile high city” and (although unaware at the time) I suffered from sickle cell trait related complications. I became extremely fatigued after or while exercising. I felt disoriented, light-headed, soreness in my neck, cramps, muscle tightening, and fatigue. The symptoms were so bad there were times when I had to take off work and visit the doctor because I knew there was a problem, but I did not know the source. Unfortunately, the doctors said it was probably only stress related and never tested my blood to see if it was something more like complications from sickle cell trait.
Fast forward 3 years, and I was not fully aware of my trait status until I was pregnant with twins. Now, I have a daughter with the sickle cell trait and another with sickle cell disease. Thus, I am fully committed to sharing with all people the importance of knowing your Sickle Cell Trait Status. Remember, Sickle Cell Disease is the most prevalent genetic disorder in America, our silence and lack of awareness must stop!
My plea to parents!
Find out if your child is a carrier of the trait. Then teach them about the responsibility that is in their hands as carriers of the Sickle Cell Trait, which is:
- Hydrate often; especially when you are exercising and in extreme temperatures.
- Rest when your body is over exerted.
- Make sure your partner/spouse is tested for the trait; especially if you’re considering having a baby.
- Raise Awareness about Sickle Cell Trait and Sickle Cell Disease.
- Help fund sickle cell related research.
My heart goes out to Shanice Clark’s family, my sincere condolences.
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