Sickle cell awareness day

Torcia Velthuizen
By Torcia Velthuizen January 26, 2018 13:21

By Torcia Velthuizen

Social media is inundated with posts for national days such as boyfriend day or national puppy day, but lost among the innocuous holidays is a day meant to bring awareness to a serious health issue. On June 19 Canada will observe Sickle Cell Awareness Day.

Sickle cell anemia is a blood disorder caused by an abnormality in the protein that carries oxygen in the red blood cells. These proteins, known as hemoglobin, weaken the red bloods cell and cause the blood cell to burst.

The acknowledgement of the need for awareness came through the passing of Bill S-211, An Act Respecting National Sickle Cell Awareness Day.

“Most of these people are experiencing lifelong debilitating pain. Some people affected by sickle cell anemia are confined to their homes, requiring around-the-clock care,” said Darren Fisher, a Member of Parliament from Dartmouth. “Numerous blood transfusions are not uncommon for someone with this disease.”

Fisher said approximately 5000 Canadians and their families are affected by sickle cell and the number is increasing. The Sickle Cell Disease Association of Canada estimates one in every 2500 Canadians will be born with this disease.

Marisa Gatfield, territory manager for Blood Service Canada said she was surprised with the decrease in people who decided to donate blood this December.

“Typically we have people give the gift of life during the holiday season, but there hasn’t been an uptick in donations [last month],” said Gatfield.

Gatfield said Blood Services needs 375 donors every week to meet their collection targets.

There are 36 permanent collection sites across Canada and Windsor is home to one of them. They are open six days a week and potential donors can find out more details about eligibility on the Blood Services Canada website.

Blood donations is only part of the picture for those with sickle cell disease.

“This disease primarily affects those with diverse ethnic backgrounds — African, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, South American, and South Asian. In Canada, sickle cell disproportionately affects members of the African Canadian community,” said Fisher.

Fisher said he believes one reason sickle-cell might lack awareness is because of discrimination.

“Lack of awareness results in individuals being underserved by the medical community,” said Fisher.

The bill has not been given the official holiday status, so people will not be expecting any days off work. This will help pave the way to bring awareness to the disease and help educate Canadians on what the disease is and how they can help.

A day dedicated to awareness might help.

Bill S-211, was given royal assent on Dec. 12.

Torcia Velthuizen
By Torcia Velthuizen January 26, 2018 13:21

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