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  1. Sickle Cell on the Radio: Why You Should Tune In

    March 2, 2015 by Andrea


    In case you missed it, Farron Dozier, sickle cell trait and sickle cell disease advocate, will be relaunching his popular radio show this Wednesday (March 4, 2015)! Using his broadcasting platform, Farron will be helping to increase education and raise awareness for SCT, SCD, thalassemia, G6PD, lupus, and other conditions. An Army veteran, Farron first discovered the symptoms of his own sickle cell trait back in 2006, as he was participating in his physical fitness test. Since being medically discharged from the Army in 2013, Farron has made it his mission to inform the pubic about sickle cell, remove the stigma, and cultivate understanding of the disease. 

    Tune in to LA Talk Live every Saturday at 4 p.m. Pacific Time/ 7 p.m. Eastern Time, and join in this important conversation. Then, revisit this post and tell us what you think about his show in the comments below! 

    While you wait for the official relaunch, be sure to check out his last episode of Season 1 below! 


    Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

  2. Sickle Cell Trait Needs More Awareness, Too (Part 2)

    December 5, 2014 by Andrea


    Last week, for the first installment of our two-part mini blog series on sickle cell trait, we focused on the risk of kidney disease and renal medullary carcinoma. This week, we'll be exploring the issue of SCT and the risks of extreme exertion, especially for athletes and military recruits. 

    According to the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA), "Although uncommon, persons who are carriers for sickle cell may develop specific rare symptoms that may be related to sickle cell trait." Besides kidney disease, other symptoms -- such as localized sickling, severe hypoxemia [low oxygen in the blood], and muscle break down, among others -- may be related to extreme exertion. Conditions such as heat, dehydration, altitude, and asthma can exacerbate these symptoms. 

    When an athlete or military recruit with SCT is putting out full exertion during practices and trainings, the sickle hemoglobin in their blood can cause cells to start sickling, when they normally would not. When cells sickle, they can block blood vessels, which can lead to collapse and possibly death -- and this can all happen within a matter of two to three minutes.

    It's true that everybody who has SCT will not exprience these complications; however, as sickle cell trait advocate, Farron Dozier of  What'z Da Count explains, "[It's important to] be aware of what's possible. Your body will tell you what's wrong." Here's Farron's story: 

    One morning in 2006, Farron was taking part in his Army physical fitness test. He'd already completed the push ups and sit ups, and was on the track finishing up his two-mile run. As he was approaching the end, he decided to run hard for that last stretch. "In the military, we're trained to sprint that last lap," he says. "I put my hands up over my head to get air in my lungs [and then] I started to notice it started getting dark." Everything around him started spinning, so he was rushed to the hospital where he was diagnosed with dehydration and kidney failure. He was released that day, but had to return to the hospital that night, as his condition did not improve. During that visit, he was told he had dehydration, vertigo, and rhabdomyolysis and was kept for four days. 

    After he was released, doctors advised him to exercise at his own pace, which worked well for him. But, in 2009, once he turned in his medical paperwork to the Army, they advised him to stop exercising completely. Soon after, on New Year's Day of 2010, Farron's entire body became inflamed. He went to the hospital and was told that he has arthritis, as well. 

    It wasn't until he was sharing his experiences with a fellow soldier that he realized he might have sickle cell trait, which could be the cause of his recent medical issues. He got retested and SCT was confirmed. That's when he started piecing more incidences together. Since he was 5 years old, Farron's had severe arm pain, but as a child, the doctor said that pain was merely growing pains. Also, when he first entered the Army, there would be times when he would experience swelling, which the doctor contributed to tendonitis. As a result of his recurring medical issues (and subsequent bout with depression), Farron was medically discharged in 2013.

    It may seem a simple fix to require SCT screening for all athletes and military recruits (which does in fact happen for Division I college athletes and Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force recruits); however, there's a continuing debate that such screening requirements may also foster discrimination. "Under normal conditions, athletes with sickle cell trait can participate with no restrictions, so by singling them out instead of enforcing rules on practice conditions for all athletes, the NCAA may be discriminating against them," reports Science Life article, "The Unintended Consequences of the NCAA Sickle Cell Screening Policy." 

    Perhaps, though, if the Army had mandatory screenings in place, Farron would not have had the experiences he had. His opinion of mandated screenings? "What is the value of life? Ask those parents who've lost [a child to SCT exertion] do they want their child back or millions of dollars from the college?"

    Whether you're for or against mandatory screening, the most important thing to take away from this information on potential sickle cell trait risks, is that precautions are definitely necessary. Raising awareness for SCT not only helps athletes and recruits who have the trait, but can also help all athletes and military recruits. By instituting overall protections for people in these situations, coaches and recruit trainers can help prevent sudden deaths for all in their care. Click here for more stories of people who've suffered SCT exertion, and read on for a list of suggested precautions that can work with all people below:* 

    1) Build up slowly with paced progressions
    2) Encourage participation in pre-season strength/conditioning programs
    3) Stop all activity with onset of symptoms
    4) Adjust work/rest cycles for weather conditions and stress importance of staying hydrated
    5) Do now allow ill athletes to work out
    6) Educate everyone and make sure they know to report any symptoms they may be having immediately 

    Are you a carrier and an athlete or member of the military? Have you experienced any complications? Share your story in the comments below!  

    *American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, 2008

  3. Sickle Cell Trait Needs More Awareness, Too (Part 1)

    November 26, 2014 by Andrea


    We all know about the intense, debilitating pain associated with sickle cell disease crises, as well as the other effects SCD has on its warriors. However, while the general consensus is that the sickle cell trait is harmless, carriers are also at risk for certain complications.  According to a 2009 article in The American Journal of Medicine, entitled "Complications Associated with Sickle Cell Trait: A Brief Narrative Review," it states "Although largely a protective carrier state, sickle cell trait is associated with rare but fatal renal medullary cancer, exercise-related deaths, splenic infarction [when oxygen supply to the spleen is cut off], hematura, hyposthenuria, venous thromoembolism [blood clot], complicated hyphema [blood in front of the eye], and fetal loss." 

    In this first part of our sickle cell trait mini-series, we'll be exploring how people with the trait are at a higher risk for kidney disease -- especially within the African-American community.

    As reported by Reuters Health, African Americans who carry the sickle cell trait are 60 percent more likely than those without the trait to suffer from kidney disease. “The theory is that under very highly stressful situations (such as a low oxygen levels) . . . there may be some localized sickling that happens in the kidney that is leading to functional impairment,” Dr. Rakhi Naik, the head of this research, told Reuters. 

    While chronic kidney disease and end stage renal disease tend to be found in older adults with the sickle cell trait, other kidney-related complications can strike earlier. Just ask 23-year-old Shawniece Wilmore. After experiencing lower back pain for six weeks or so, she went to the doctor only to find out that she has renal medullary carcinoma. "Renal medullary carcinoma is a rare, aggressive tumor of the kidney that is seen almost exclusively in young individuals with sickle cell trait."* Only three patients have been known to survive this type of cancer, with the longest survival time being recorded as eight years. 

    Other kidney-related complications that may arise in those with sickle cell trait are*:

    1) Hematuria. The most common complication for those with sickle cell trait, hematuria is the occurrence of blood in the urine. 
    2) Hyposthenuria. This happens when the kidneys become unable to produce concentrated urine. 
    3) Renal papillary necrosis. This is a kidney disorder in which all or part of the tissues around the collecting ducts die.

    With 1 in 12 African Americans carrying the sickle cell trait, it's important to also raise awareness about its potential complications, in conjunction with raising awareness for sickle cell disease. 

    Next week, we'll be discussing Part 2 of our sickle cell trait mini-series: sickle cell trait and the risks to athletes and military recruits. Be sure to check back for that post, as well.


    Are you a carrier? Have you experienced any complications? Share your story in the comments below!  

    *2009, The American Journal of Medicine: "Complications Associated with Sickle Cell Trait: A Brief Narrative Review"

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