Sickle Cell Disease

Speech at University of Washington Anti-Racism Community Health Conference on Sickle Cell Disease

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Sickle Cell is an inherited blood disease of the hemoglobin in the blood.  It requires the inheritance of two sickled “S” genes.  A mother and father must have one of the “S” genes present in order to pass on to their newborn child.  In sickle cell, the red blood cells dies off every 10-20 days making it difficult for the body to continue to produce healthy red blood cells on a consistent basis.  With the blood cells dying off so quickly, along with low oxygen, this leads to chronic pain, organ damage, strokes, acute chest, death and other chronic conditions.

Some of sickle cell symptoms are:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain or pain crisis
  • Dactylitis (swelling and inflammation of the hands and/or feet)
  • Arthritis
  • Splenic sequestration (when the blood gets trapped in the spleen) liver congestion
  • Lung and heart injury
  • Leg ulcers
  • Necrosis and bone infarcts (death of potions of bone)
  • Eye damage
  • Priapism

Conventional Treatments and Side Effects:

Blood transfusions – can be life saving, it’s the transfer of blood from one person into another person’s bloodstream.  This will replace blood cells lost through severe bleeding during surgery when blood loss occurs or to increase the blood count in anemic patient.  You are encouraged to discuss your particular need for transfusion as well as the risks of transfusion with your doctor.  Fears over the safety of blood transfusions have prompted some physicians to recommend they are used only as a last resort.  According to a report in New Scientist today, the National Institutes of Health, the US government’s largest medical funder, has launched a review into the safety of the procedure.  A cardiac anesthetist at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond said “probably 40% – 60% of blood transfusions are not good for the patients”  

Transfusions are linked to higher death rates and this is suspected due to the ageing blood that has been stored before being given to patients is less able to carry oxygen to vital organs and causes damage to the immune system.

When blood transfusions can become dangerous and even fatal, also side effects of transfusions:

Blood transfusions can become dangerous when someone constantly receives them on a monthly basis, side effects such as:

Allergic reactions – Some people have allergic reactions to blood received during a transfusion, even when given the right blood type.  In these cases, symptoms include hives and itching.

Lung problems (pulmonary edema)

Shock – a life threatening condition that results from lack of adequate blood flow

Iron Overload – which can lead to damaging the heart and liver


Chest pains

Acute Immune Hemolytic


Shortness of breath

Acute kidney failure


Hydroxyurea was created in 1869 in Germany to treat cancer such as leukemia, melanoma, and ovarian cancer.  Then in the latter half of the twentieth century, medical researchers considered hydroxyurea as a treatment option for neoplastic disease (health problems involving abnormal cell growth).  By 1967, the FDA approved hydroxyurea as an anti cancer treatment.  In 1984, hydroxyurea was approved for the treatment for sickle cell disease.  It is said that this medication is used to reduce the frequency of painful crisis and reduce the need for blood transfusions in people with sickle cell.  The issue is Hydroxyurea is a cancer medication that has been proven to increase fetal hemoglobin but has it really been proven to treat the root cause in sickle cell?  Has it been proven to help the body naturally produce red blood cells and increase oxygen?  

Lets look at side effects of Hydroxyurea:

“Hydroxyurea can cause a severe decrease in the number of blood cells in your bone marrow.  This may cause certain symptoms and may increase the risk that you will develop a serious infection or bleeding.  Hydroxyurea may increase the risk that you will develop other cancers, including skin cancer or leukemia”

Other side effects include: Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, mouth sores, constipation, skin problems such as ulcers, darkened fingernails or skin. Mental mood changes, confusion, hallucinations, seizures, shortness of breath, chest pain, kidney or liver damage, allergic reaction, rash, itching, swelling of the face, tongue or throat, severed dizziness, fast heartbeat, flu like symptoms, pain in the upper right part of the stomach, numbness, burning or tingling in the hands or feet, difficult or painful urination.