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The "365 Movement" helps patients with Sickle Cell Disease; the organization's name recognizes that one in 365 African-Americans is born with Sickle Cell Disease. LifeSouth Community Blood Centers are working to help individuals with the condition. CONTRIBUTED

LifeSouth urges action for Sickle Cell Disease

MADISON – Blood donors in the Tennessee Valley can help neighbors who deal with the debilitating condition of Sickle Cell Disease.

This disease is a genetic blood disorder that predominantly affects African-Americans. The disease’s name refers to red blood cells that are thin and crescent-shaped. These cells face more difficulty passing through blood vessels than healthy, disc-shaped red blood cells.

Patients with SCD can face chronic fatigue, recurrent episodes of extreme pain, breathlessness and increased risk of complications such as stroke, liver disease and delayed growth. Approximately one person in every 365 African-American children is born with SCD.

People with the disease need ongoing blood transfusions to increase healthy red blood cells in their bloodstream and lessen the effects of sickle-shaped cells.

“LifeSouth works with local hospitals, such as Huntsville Hospital, Athens-Limestone Hospital, Decatur Morgan Hospital, Marshall Medical Centers and North Alabama Medical Center,” Eric Franchois said. He works as District Community Development Coordinator with LifeSouth in Madison.

“LifeSouth helps to match SCD patients with ‘Sickle Cell Heroes,’ or donors whose red blood cells are precisely matched to reduce complications from blood transfusions,” Franchois said. “The best matches are likely to be found within a patient’s own ethnic group.”

To-date, LifeSouth has identified approximately 11,300 Sickle Cell Heroes across Alabama, Florida and Georgia.

Local blood donors can support their neighbors with Sickle Cell disease in these ways:

* Visit a LifeSouth donor center or blood drive to donate blood. LifeSouth will test each donation to identify potential Sickle Cell Heroes.

* LifeSouth will notify by mail all donors who received the testing about the findings, both positive and negative results.

* The Center for Disease Control recommends this screening, especially to adults born before 2006. Screening at birth started after 2006.

* Knowing your and your partner’s status is important. A child can inherit the gene from a parent.

* Donate as often as possible if your identified blood antigen profile is a match. If you are identified as a Sickle Cell Hero, your donations will help a local patient living with SCD.

* Join the “Be the Match Registry.” LifeSouth can assist local, potential donors who are interested in donating bone marrow or cord blood donors for patients in need, including those living with SCD.

LifeSouth’s address in Madison is 8190 Madison Blvd. To learn more about Sickle Cell Disease, visit LifeSouth.org/SickleCell. To contact Franchois, call 256-533-8246 or email egfranchois@lifesouth.org.

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