HOUSTON - "What a relief!" That's a common saying, as patients leave UT Physician's Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center.
This Sickle Cell Awareness Month, we want to make sure you know how the center is enhancing the lives of patients with sickle cell.
We talked to several patients who sure have benefited from treatment there, especially through clinical trials, with the very latest treatments.
Naomi Wesson is one of them. She has been persevering through the pain of sickle cell disease since she was four years old, yet she's sharing a message of hope.
"All of the predictions that I would never live past 18, that I wouldn't have children. Thankfully, I was able to have children. I was able to go to college, and I was able to pursue my goals, but it was indeed very difficult. I had to fight through," says Naomi.
Dr. Modupe Idowu is the Executive Director of the Center and explains that sickle cell disproportionally affects African Americans and Hispanic Americans. She also helps us better understand why sickle cell lashes out and causes so much pain.
"The red blood cells, instead of the spherical shape, the normal spherical shape, they actually change shape to sickle when they're on the deoxygenated state or under stress. If the patient maybe gets dehydrated, or infection, some of the cells, when they get sickled, they will get stuck to the very little blood vessels and they do not carry oxygen very well to the tissue or organs and the end result will be organ damage, dysfunction," explains Dr. Idowu. This can lead to organ failure and agonizing body aches.
Naomi does her best to describe the pain.
"I have sometimes referred to it as a toothache in the bones because it mostly affects my joints but having sickle cell disease affects every part of your body. So, it can affect your muscles, your organs as well. Think about it, anywhere the blood flows, it's affected," exclaims Naomi.
Kisha McClintock understands how it affects her and is also undergoing clinical trials at the same center. She always knew she had the sickle cell trait but didn't suffer her first symptom until nine years ago.
"That pain is indescribable! I mean, sometimes the pain is beyond 10. The pain is so intense, that it has put bruises on my whole entire body. I guess because the lack of oxygen," states Kisha.
Her pain level is now diminished as well, and her quality of life is better than ever, after seeking treatment at the sickle cell center.
"It gives you hope, especially when you have a family, someone else depending on you, besides just you! I will try anything. This is a glimpse of change at sickle cell," says Kisha.
"I was losing 50-60% of my quality of life to being in the hospital and I'm usually able to manage pain episodes at home now," says Naomi.
"One of the patients said this is the first time I feel like a normal person in my life, so they were very thankful for the opportunity to participate in this study," explains Dr. Idowu.
She's also proud that patients can see multiple specialists at her clinic on the same day.
"We actually offer the behavioral team, when they come in, they can see a case manager, social worker on the same day. Not only that, if they want to see a family practitioner for maintenance needs, beside a hematologist for sickle cell, they can get their echocardiogram (heart test) done, labs, imaging, studies done on the same day," says Dr. Idowu.
All of the appointments for a chronic disease like sickle cell can get exhausting, but these options simplify the process for them.
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